Saturday, March 23, 2013

Continuity Error

Howdy folks. Despite my copious amounts of down time since the end of the Japanese Semester, I still haven't really provided and update. For that I apologize. I was rather caught up in enjoying my time. I've got a ton of pictures to sort through and upload when I get back. I will be retroactively adding posts based mainly of the pictures I've taken and the various scattered stories that I remember in detail (or vaguely).

Currently I'm sitting waiting at the departure gate in Tokyo Narita International Airport. The next posts will be made stateside. See ya there.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First of the lasts

So today was my last day teaching at Little America (The cram school where I've been working most of the year). I've really loved working there. The work wasn't exactly difficult, but it was incredibly rewarding. I'm going to miss getting to hang out with them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

On a better note..

Since my last two entries weren't terribly uplifting I figured I'd share some of the more awesome stuff I do on occasion here in Japan. Today just happened to be one of those days. I know a retired Japanese guy named Eiji who has made it his task in life to try out all of the onsen in Beppu. (Eiji studied in Texas a few years ago where he met Leon, who was my neighbor here in the Kaikan last semester.) For those of you not familiar with Beppu, it is a onsen resort city with somewhere around one thousand onsen. In addition to being a guru of the local onsen, Eiji likes spending time with exchange students so that he can practice using his English. 

So this morning Eiji came and picked up myself and one other exchange student and took us to two different Onsesn in Beppu. The first was one of Beppu's "Hidden Onsen" which are natural onsen up in the mountains that anybody can go to for free, provided they can find it. The one we went to was located on a creek. It was really awesome. 

After the hidden onsen, Eiji took us to our next destination, which was at a big hotel resort. This place offers an All you can eat Buffet + Onsen combo pack (Which Eiji treated us to). So we had a nice lunch and then went up to the hotels rooftop resort to relax for a few hours. It was definitely a different feeling then the natrual onsen, but it was still totally awesome. The view overlooking Beppu and the Bay was great. (We had surprisingly good weather for this time of year).

(I don't know what you did this morning, but it was likely not as relaxing as what I did.) 

All and all I'm guessing this is the least stressful Monday during a finals period that I've ever had.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Longest Distance

So it might come as no surprise to you that I tend to move a little slower these days, what with my back problem and all. As a result, I have been missing trains fairly regularly since the amount of time it takes me to get to the station now varies considerably from day to day. Earlier in the semester I would still try and run for my train, but this universally turned out to be a horrible idea that I would pay for over then next several hours (or days). So I've come to accept my fate of being late, but I do my best to catch the trains that get me to school in time for my classes. Last Wednesday I felt I was actually doing ok for time when I left in the morning, but by the time I got to the station, I realized that was not so. So I was moving at a semi-swift walk (The fastest speed I can manage without hurting myself most days) in order to make it to the train. On my way up the escalator I was able to see my train. "All right, I made it!" I thought to myself. But as I reached the platform, the train's doors were already closed and the train pulled away. As the train slugged slowly forward  I spotted several of my neighbors sitting by one of the windows. Wendy, one of my many Chinese neighbors, saw me on the platform, and her expression instantly changed to one of horrified realization of something gone terribly wrong. She pointed at me and looked back to the others around her as if to search for a way to whisk me aboard, but alas, no such rescue could be performed. She gave me a downtrodden wave as I stood defeated and alone on the platform.

Although irritated at having missed my train by so narrow a margin, I was hardly surprised. I walked downstairs and got myself some bread at the train station bakery and headed up to the platform where my next train would be arriving. I found one of my Japanese Level 4 teachers sitting on the train, so I sat next to her and had a good conversation with her until we arrived at the campus station. I walked my way up to school and entered my classroom late for the Nth time this semester. Once class was over Wendy came and found me and said to that as she saw me on the platform she thought something along the lines of the following:

"The longest distance is not between China and America, but between the train and the platform. With a door closed between you as the train pulls away."

I can't replicate her accent or the way she stumbled to find the right English words via text, but the fact that she took the time to share her thoughts with me was really sweet.

I realize this post was a bit more theatrical then normal. But since this is how I chose to distract myself, rather than playing a game or watching youtube videos, I'm not going to question it.


Not quite dead yet!

Just severely wounded.

I apologize for not updating. Not only for friends and family who are reading, but also to myself since this blog will serve as a lasting memory of my trip that I look back on as my life goes on. The more I post, the more memories I'll be able to reflect on fondly.

Unfortunately my back problem has sapped a lot of my will to keep up on a variety things. Since it's not on the blog yet, I suppose I should start with the results of my MRI (Only took me two and a half months to write about it... *cough*). The results very clearly show a hernia between my 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra. I have been doing a variety of conservative therapies to try and combat it. I have been given a series of spinal injections (Which have had no effect), a series of increasingly stronger pain medications (Which have also had no effect), and Traction therapy (Which helps for about 2 hours). I don't know if I'm immune to pain killers or if it's just got zero effect on nerve pain. I've also been going to the onsen frequently. And although I generally do feel better afterwards, I don't know that it's markedly better then a regular shower. I do enjoy the outdoor pool though, so I will continue going. I did find out (Rather painfully) that bubble jets, even at low strength  are terrible for my back.  Based on the ineffectiveness of the treatments (My condition has slowly but steadily worsened) the doctors are saying I will most likely need surgery.

The severity of my pain changes from day to day. Some days I can get up and move around with minimal pain. There are days where I've walked a few Kilometers without much trouble. Then there are other days (Like yesterday) where I can hardly shuffle my way to the lobby (About 70' away). As you may have guessed, it's had a rather negative impact on my schooling (The chairs on campus certainly don't help either). I missed about 3 weeks of classes, and have had to leave school on several occasions to go to the hospital.

Despite all that I do try and do some fun things when my body allows me to. I've gone on a couple of field trips with my class mates that have been pretty cool (Aside from the bus ride, which is terrible for my back). I've found some cool stuff and attended some nifty events in downtown Oita. I've managed to get my hands on some awesome mementos. And of course I do get to hang out with the other exchange students and a small hand full of Japanese as well. Of course I've been taking pictures throughout all of this. Despite the knowledge that I'm supposed to be carrying as little weight as possible, I can't bring myself to leave my camera behind when we go places. Here are a few pictures from October and November. I'll have more time in a week, once I've finished the 4 papers I have due on Friday.

(Sumo Wrestling, Live in Fukuoka)

(Bungo Taketa Bamboo Lantern Festival)

(My birthday party in Saga)

(Student field trip to western Oita)

More to come later, and with better descriptions. Again, sorry for the absence.

Until next time (Which I swear won't be 2 months) take care.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So I haven't posted in a while. Sorry about that. October, despite being my birthday month, was a pretty bad month for me. My grandma Iris had a stroke and went into the hospital on my birthday, she died a few days later. Having that happen while being in a different country has been really weird. The rest of my family is grieving, and logically I know I should be too, but because there isn't anybody doing it around me, my process is kind of screwed up I think. It's creeping out, but in really weird ways that I've not experienced before. There are some things that I can think of doing to relieve the tension, but I lack either the means to do so here in Japan, or the physical ability to engage in those activities.

That second one deserves a bit of explanation I suppose. My back has been getting steadily worse since the start of the fall semester. Today it took me twice as long to get to school as it normally does because of how slow I was moving. (I also forgot my wallet, which ate up a decent chunk of time as well). I've missed a few days of school because I needed to spend the day laying down on an ice pack. Today I was able to meet with the back specialist that comes to campus twice a month, and get examined. The doctor thinks I've probably got a herniated disc. He said I need to go get an MRI. So that's what I'm doing in the morning. Ought to be.... interesting.

On less depressing matters, I did actually enjoy my birthday. I went out with a bunch of the international students to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. And then I had a park BBQ out in Saga with Mary and some other people. I took a bunch of photos. I'll get those up.... sometime.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oita Music Festival

It's rather late so I'm not going to type out much, but today was a pretty fun day. Oita had a huge music festival going on this weekend with live bands playing on 16 stages throughout downtown. My friend Izumi (Well, technically she's Mary's friend, but I go over there all the time and have been taking Kimono lessens from her mother (Okamura-san, who I've mentioned here before I'm pretty sure), and teaching English to her son, so she's my friend too) was playing on one of the stages. I met them (All 3 of them came) at the station and then showed them to the stage they were going to be playing at. I carried the Koto for her. I ran into a bunch of people I knew at the station, and they all thought it was mine. It was kinda awkward because I lacked the Japanese to explain the situation to the non English speakers.

Anyway, She preformed, and it was awesome. I took pictures and video. I just put the videos up on Youtube. If you're interested in hearing some Japanese traditional instruments and singing (Though I think the Koto tune I recorded is actually a Russian tune) you should check out the videos below.

(Izumi playing the Sanshin, an Okinawan version/predecesor of the Shamisen, which is a Japanese 3 string Banjo)
If you want to watch it on actual youtube:

(Izumi playing the Koto, which is functionally similar to a harp I guess.)
If you want to watch it on actual youtube:

After the performance a guy came up to me and asked to take my picture. He apparently thought I was rather interesting looking and wanted to enter my photo in some kind of contest. If his photo wins, my face will be in a Japanese Magazine somewhere I guess. He bought us all potato wedges as a thank you. After that I helped Izumi and her family get their stuff onto the train. Fitting the Koto in there was kinda interesting. It is not a small instrument. After that I was heading back to my bike, which invovles going through an underground walkway. In the walkway there was a Japanese guy singing and playing guitar. This wasn't part of the festival, but I thought he was pretty good. I talked with him for a bit about how I liked his music and he said he had a CD. I asked him how much, but instead he gave it to me in exchange for taking a photo with me. (He got one on his own camera, but I wanted one with mine too.)

(The sound quality on this one isn't nearly as good as what he was actually singing. My camera picked up all the noise of the people walking behind me really well though)
If you want to watch it on actual youtube:

So yeah, I had a fun day. Hope you did too.