Monday, July 21, 2008

Heading into Summer

It's been a busy couple of weeks--weekends especially.

Of course, the ironic thing about blogging for me is that the more I have to write about, the less likely I am to actually write! I definitely admire the people who take the time to update their blogs even when things get busy. For me, the very things that make blogging worthwhile are the things that consume my energy so that at the end of the day, I don't feel like blogging. ^^;;

Anyway, I guess I'll start with last weekend.

Friday (July 11th) was a busy day. I was supposed to have an office day, but Towada Junior High School had a parent day (parents come into the school to observe one period of actual classes), so they asked if I could go to the school.

After teaching four classes of ichinensei (only the fifth period class was the observation class), I went to Kirita to watch/help with the sannensei's cooking class. They made okonomiyaki and cupcakes, which turned out pretty well in spite of the lack of time (usually cooking classes are two periods, but this was only one period.)

Then it was off to the farewell party with the Shidoka (Towada City Education Department, Guidance Section) staff. Allie and I were doing the MC'ing in Japanese, so we met up early to divide up the parts and to practice. The bus was super late (more than half an hour, I think!) picking us, but we made it to the location (in Oirase Town) eventually.

Things went pretty well, and after the party it was off to a snack for the nijikai. This was definitely the most "out there" snack bar I've been to in Towada (although it was still pretty tame compared to the image I had of snacks before coming to Japan). Often when you do karaoke, they give you a score afterwards. At this particular place, at the end of the song they flashed a picture of a scantily clad girl on the screen. Then it was covered with a mosaic, and as the score was tallied, the pieces of the mosaic disappeared until the final score and the naked girl were revealed. (Obviously, the higher the score, the more of the girl you got to see.) It was very disconcerting at first, but then I learned to just look at the right of the screen for the score. They also had a wide assortment of hats/headgear which they got us to wear--bunny/cat ears, leis, etc.

(See Andy Farewell Party pictures here.)

Saturday I had to get up early to receive a delivery from CDJapan. (Even though I told myself I wasn't going to spend anymore money on new DVDs, I couldn't resist picking up the Avalon Memorial Box as a clearance special. ^^;; ) Then I cleaned the apartment and went grocery shopping in preparation for the dinner party on Sunday. I also made the soy sauce pork and eggs.

At night, it was shabu shabu at the restaurant in Oirase Roman Park (next to the brewery) for John's final Payday Friday (except it wasn't yet payday, and it wasn't a Friday either!). We hit Pilsen's after that, and most people went to karaoke at Festa afterwards; I went home after Pilsen's, though.

Sunday was an entire day spent cooking. I'm super slow at cutting vegetables, so it took me something like 2-3 hours just to get all the prep work done for my dishes. Of course, part of that was I wanted to make it special, so I cut the carrots into flowers and butterflies. (The flowers turned out well, but the butterflies looked demented.)

In the end though, I finished everything -- chicken rice, beef and broccoli, stir-fried veggies, yakisoba, and soy sauce pork & eggs -- in good time. Even though I actually screwed up the beef and broccoli (I forgot the oyster sauce when I was making the sauce, so after I finished plating it, I had to scoop the beef back up and cook it again with the oyster sauce!), it was the most popular dish. The chicken rice also went over very well, and the yakisoba was pretty good too. The stir-fried veggies were pretty mediocre, though, since I overcooked them while trying to get the broccoli cooked to a nice firmness. The soy sauce eggs and pork were OK, but since the pork chunks were small and they had sunk to the bottom of the pot, I think most people only ate the eggs. The taste was decent, but the colour wasn't dark enough--Japanese dark sauce simply doesn't compare to Chinese dark soy sauce.

Anyway, it was a successful dinner, although I cooked WAY too much (I had an entire pot of rice and plate of yakisoba leftover!) and had to force people to take leftovers home. The cake and cards for Andy and Kelly & Ron were well received too.

This weekend was also busy, although I had more time for relaxation/doing nothing. Friday, though, was non-stop. We had a kind of closing ceremony at Kirita for the end of the first term, plus a farewell ceremony for Higashi-sensei (she was working as the Japanese teacher while another teacher was on maternity leave, but that teacher is coming back in August). Actually, Higashi-sensei's leaving made the entire week busy, since I spent my nights from Tuesday-Thursday making her farewell present (a Rirrakuma doll). (Thanks to the start of English speech contest preparation, I was also leaving Kirita later during the week.)

(Higashi-sensei is probably my second favourite teacher--after my JTE, Tomabechi-sensei--at Kirita. She ALWAYS helps me when I have Japanese/kanji questions, plus she's just fun and interesting to talk with. I'm really going to miss her!)

After that most of the teachers went bowling with the teachers from Kamikirita (the nearest elementary school). I was terrible, as usual. Also, the Alley had a beer frame challenge: if every player in the lane got a strike/spare in a single frame, each player would get a six pack of beer. I was the last person to bowl in our lane, and at one point in the first game, everyone before me got a spare/strike! Up to that point I had been getting a lot of gutter balls, or maybe 3-5 pins in one go, so I was really freaked out. To make the pressure even worse, Kyoto-sensei (vice principal) came over to our lane to watch when he saw we had the potential to get the beer. My first ball (throw? I don't know bowling terminology!) actually knocked down 8 pins! I was SO relieved. It wasn't a strike, but at least it was decent. Unfortunately, though, that left the two pins on the right for me to knock down. Needless to say, I missed, but at least I performed credibly under the pressure. My final score in that game was 58.

The next game went much better. Although I was pretty performing the same for the bulk of the game, in the last three or four frames, I decided to try switching to a 10 ball (I'd been using a 9). This resulted in me getting my first spare!! Then in the final frame, I actually got another spare plus got another 7-8 pins in the extra bowl! My final score for the second game was 84!!

I never thought I'd say this, but I think I need to get everyone to go bowling with me when I go back home so they can teach me some tricks!! (I'm sure I'm going to be bowling with the school again, so I'd like to manage a somewhat decent performance next time round!)

After bowling, I rushed home to change before meeting everyone at the Bunka (culture) Centre to catch the bus to the brewery. We had a good dinner at the Oirase Brewery for our end of first term/farewell Higashi-sensei enkai. Then it was back to central Towada for a nijikai at a snack.

Following the nijikai, Higashi-sensei, Tomabechi-sensei and I went to Coco's for tea and snacks (I had a mango parfait!). Even though we had all been pretty tired by the end of the nijikai, we still stuck around for about an hour, hour and a half talking. At the end of the night I drove them home.

(See Kirita enkai &etc. photos here.)

Saturday, I forced myself to get up at a decent hour (9 or 10 am, rather than 1 or 2pm) to give myself time to do laundry and cleaning and to take my car into the Eneos gas station for a shaken (bi-annual mandatory car maintenance tax) estimate. After that I headed out to Misawa to watch John and Sam perform The Emperor's New Clothes in Misawa. Kelly and Ron also went and we stuck around to help clean up (there wasn't much to do, since it was a super simple set) and eat the free food provided for the cast and their "family." Then Joe and Will met us at Paddy's for some drinks. I think the guys probably went out for more drinking afterwards, but I went home.

(See Emperor's New Clothes photos here - part 1 - and here - part 2.)

Sunday I had to wake up early again for yet another CDJapan delivery. Again, I couldn't resist ordering Koisuru Madori and Daremo Shiranai / Nobody Knows from their clearance sale. I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around watching movies/dramas. I watched the Avalon movie (interesting, but very similar to .Hack//Sign) and most of the Yukan Club TV Series.

Then Allie picked me up and we met Juliet and Ron & Kelly at the old Kitazono ES house to go to Lake Towada for fireworks. ^_^ It was really busy, but it was fun! There was lots of festival food stalls (I feel a little guilty, though, since I never waited in line but just got everyone else to buy me food when they went. ^^;; ) and the fireworks were really well done. The display lasted about an hour and there were a lot of big, spectacular ones. By chance we also ended up sitting next to Kanae-san, Sakagami-san's daughter. ^_^ When we got back to (central) Towada, we decided to go to Coco's for dessert/snacks. I had another mango parfait, and a slice of Kelly's pizza.

(See Lake Towada Fireworks Festival pictures here.)

Even though it was late when I got home, I decided to finish off the Yukan Club series. I was pretty dumb, though, since I thought there was only an episode or two left. There were actually about four episodes left, so I ended up staying up until about 4am! When I turned off the lights to go to bed, it was already starting to get light outside!

So today (a holiday!) I slept in until 11am-12pm and spent the afternoon downloading manga scanlations and organizing and uploading photos to Facebook: EofA Trivia Night.