Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hurray!

In merely a few hours, I will be dragging my bags out into the snow and hailing a taxi to begin my grand winter adventure! 35 hours later, I will arrive in Mississippi! Woohoo! I can't wait to see my beautiful family!! Hi, beautiful family! :-) I will have a little more than 17 days to spend with you! Oh, yay! It is going to be so nice to talk in person, but also at the same time of day!

When I leave, it will be around 21 degrees with a windchill of 8. Now, there seems to be some discrepancy between weather.com's forecast and MSN's forecast...but either way, the temperature will more than double by the time I arrive! Maybe even close to triple!! Then, it looks like the temperature will drop...but it will still be like a tropical vacation for me! Bring out the leis!

My junior high students at the school I visit for kids who have disabilities do the cutest thing that I absolutely love. When we get ready to sing a song, they all yell together, "Music...STARTO!" Japanese syllables always end with a vowel (except for n alone, but, I digress)

Sooo...

Vacation...STARTO!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wow!



This morning has been a morning of picking my chin up off the floor and putting it back where it belongs! I am in complete and total amazement at the amount of snow that has fallen this week, and especially last night!





The piles and drifts look like they are approaching the second floor of this building!


....maybe I'm glad I don't have a car!



















...but, it is just amazing (and a bit bewildering)! I am enjoying looking at it and listening to this song:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joy to the world

I was thinking about Christmas this evening, and how much I miss hearing about the true meaning of Christmas. I've been missing Christmas carols, too, so I went to YouTube to listen to some different songs. I actually wanted to hear Joy to the World - which may be one of my favorite Christmas songs. Here are some of my findings I thought you might enjoy. None of the videos are particularly worth writing home about (even though that is basically what I'm doing...), but the songs themselves are good.

The first one is a little bizarre, but strangely addictive. When I first heard it, I kept thinking about changing the song, but I kept finding myself wanting to listen a little longer. I'd love to know what you think!

...or, perhaps you might prefer to rock out with Third Day

...if you just want to go old school, here's a good one

Well, I will leave you with those happy thoughts. Tomorrow is another leave-the-house-at-5:45AM day, or o'dark hundred, as it is more commonly known.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Untamed Drugstore

The trouble with getting sick in another language is that you have to worry about things like accidentally knocking yourself out cold. I have not done this yet, but I could see it easily happening.

It all started 2 days ago when I developed a bit of a sore throat. It continued yesterday, so I asked my supervisor about stuff for a sore throat. He gave me some recommendations, so I trotted to the drugstore on my lunch break to try out my new Japanese vocabulary. Apparently, I need to lay off the trotting, because I wiped out on the ice again. Naturally, the top layer was somehow kind of muddy. Well, I picked myself up, dusted myself off (mudded myself off?), and resumed my travels.

Anyhoo, I was very proud to successfully find the stuff that I needed. By this time though, a little headache was starting, so I looked for something that looked like a pain reliever. The stuff with English was really expensive, so I bought the stuff next to it that looked similar. Don't worry, I asked my supervisor what it was before I took it. He thought it was funny.

Well, somehow by tonight, everything morphed into full-on sneezing, congestion, Niagara Falls, etc. Unfortunately, it was 9:00, and everything here closes super early. Well, I decided to take my chances and so I scooted over the ice to the nearest drugstore. Miraculously, it was still open. now I just had the problem of not knowing what the heck I was supposed to buy. Back home, I knew what everything looked like and would carefully scrutinize the ingredients to find the perfect combination for whatever was ailing me. Well, things worked out a little differently here. I grabbed a clerk, using my all-purpose "Sumimasen," which apparently means "I'm sorry," or "Excuse me," or "So, what do you think of the persimmon crisis in the Bronx?" Who really knows? Whatever it meant, it worked. It may also have been my confused look, I don't know. I find that combining a really confused look with whatever I'm saying seems to be quite effective.

My limited Japanese vocabulary is currently missing the words for congestion, etc, so I broke out the old faithful gestures. So, I stood there in the medicine section of Sapporo Drug miming sneezes, a runny nose, and watery eyes, etc. Somehow, the clerk knew what I needed (I think) and handed me a nice yellow box.
Now, what exactly it is, I don't know! I am not taking it tonight in case it's the knockout variety (I have to leave around 5:45am...blaaaaah). I have a feeling that my vocabulary is about to be enriched with words pertaining to colds, allergies, and sinus fun! It's amazing how the most mundane things become an adventure when they are tipped into another language!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Travels


So, some of you (or maybe just Mom, which is sufficient in my book) have been asking about my trip to Sapporo. Well, I am happy to tell you that it involved no accidents. Therefore, I believe we can call the trip a success. ;-)
For some bizarre reason, I had a flurry of things to do at the office before I left. I had spent all day Monday at a seminar for elementary teachers and all day Tuesday traveling around and falling down. So, I did my stuff at work and mailed my first CLAIR Japanese test at lunch time. I was pretty excited about completing that test. Especially in light of what was looming on the horizon...

I took the midday train to Sapporo - we basically have three trains per day that will take us out of the frozen northland to...well, more frozen northland. Oh, well. I really enjoyed the first part of the train trip. My city, being on the coast, has had warmer temperatures than some of the inland areas of Hokkaido (which is why we keep going through the snow, slush, rain, freeze sets). Anyway, there was a point on the journey
where we went into a tunnel and came out in a frozen fairy wonderland. Auggh! It was so beautiful! It has always been my favorite part of train trips anyway, and the addition of snow just added to the charm.

Now, this picture in no way does justice to the scene (I'm not sure it's even the same area), but the problem with
trains is that they generally will not stop to let
you take pictures. Oh, and by the way, they have not started installing outdoor fluorescent lighting yet - that is a reflection in the window. Hmmm...come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea. It gets dark between 3:45-4:15 right now.

I arrived in Sapporo a little after 7:00 that evening. Going from my city to Sapporo is always a bit of a shock. I can't imagine what it is like for the people who live in towns of 1000 or so. It is really like entering a whole different world. A beautiful world of shopping meccas and Starbucks and bookstores with English books and subways and intersections where all the crossing lights at an intersection go green for pedestrians at the same time, so you can charge across diagonally if you so choose.

The cool thing about being in Sapporo is that you really could rarely go outside, yet still manage to go to many places. Ahh, the beauty of subways. Although, they do get a little crowded sometimes. You can become very well acquainted with strangers during busy times. But, when it's crowded, you don't really lose your balance when the train starts and stops. There is nowhere to go.

Sapporo is also a land where you can buy drinks like this:
Yes, in case you were wondering, it was a bad idea. At first taste, it was pretty good. But on second taste...not so good...well, I had to try it, didn't I?

So, the next day we actually had to get to work. Day 1 of the conference was mostly whole-group lectures. There was some good stuff, though, and it was fun to meet up with old JET buddies!

That night, we did some shopping and went to the German Christmas Market, which was pretty amazing. I had...wait for it...a hot dog, tater tots, and hot cocoa! OK,
I think they called it a sausage, but it was basically a hot dog. It was pretty amazingly good, though! I had eaten udon noodles for lunch...word to the wise - don't eat udon noodles when you are in full business dress...so it was nice to eat something I could successfully consume without wearing half of it. :)

There were also some pretty Christmas lights in the park. Here is a view of the park from the TV tower observatory:

The strangest thing happened while we were at the Christmas thing. I was walking around with one of my JET friends, and a group of people (maybe around age 19 or 20) came up to her and started showing her a camera. I figured that they wanted her to take a picture of them, so I stepped away. They pulled me back, and we finally figured out that they wanted to take a picture with us. So, we graciously obliged. After we took the picture, I wasn't really sure how to properly disengage myself from the group, so I did the American smile, giggle, try to have a little conversation, smile again. So, this cycle went on for a little while, and then one of the girls grabbed my arm and there was a stampede for my other arm. Once my other arm was claimed, they took another picture. Turns out the group was from China. Maybe they don't have any foreigners there either?? I thought that maybe they thought we were German or something, but we told them we were American. It was pretty funny, though. Bizarre, but funny.

The next morning was the workshop where I presented with one of my JTEs. Can we say fear and trembling??? We had 52 participants scheduled to come. It kind of felt like there were 502 in the room! :-) If I had to be completely objective, I would say that it went fairly well. Presenting to one's peers is can be rather frightening. The rest of the day was enjoyable, and it was soon time for the conference to end!

Once the conference ended, I moved to another hotel that was a little bit cheaper with the other ALTs from my city. To my surprise, the new hotel was nicer than the one we vacated. That night, I went out with one of my JTEs and some other teachers and an ALT from the area. We went to this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that served completely awesome food! The first
thing we got was a dish that kind of looked like pickled brains - which concerned me. It was good, as was everything that came after it! There was a big ol' crab, edamame, sashimi, salad, uni (sea urchin), and maybe some other stuff, too. :)

The next day, I basically moved into Starbucks to cram for my exam the following day. It was so nice to sit in a coffee shop, consume copious amounts of caffeine and sugar, and study. Partway through the day, another sucker, er, fellow test taker, joined me for a study session. She's a fellow JET (well, she's actually a girl...hahaha...never mind).

Sunday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. Pre-test breakfasts always remind me of the breakfasts Mom used to fix for me before I took an ACT. This breakfast was decidedly weirder than any she made for me.
The hotel buffet had a "Western" section, which includes salad, corn (!), and french fries. Oh, well. Why not? I decided to have a fusion breakfast. I had salad, french fries, miso soup, ham, fish, and coffee. It was a little bizarre. Anyway, at that point it was time to wend my way to the test. I did a dry run the night before (this is a good thing to do when you have directional difficulties).

Unfortunately, I arrived at the test center too early, and found myself shepherded into a test room. I was over an hour early, and did not really want to just hang with the proctors, so I staged an escape. My plan failed. I was basically shepherded to the bathroom, where I hid out for a while, then I wound up back in the test room. Maybe I looked lost? I can just see their thoughts..."Oh, one of the Level 4's got out again. We better put them back before they go and get lost. Sigh. Level 4's." Seriously, though, there were points, where test staff would come into the room, deliver a long speech in Japanese, and look at us expectantly. I was like, um, "Konnichiwa?"

The test itself was pretty doggone difficult! Woah! Double woah! Auggh! That pretty much sums it up! I totally have empathy now for all those people who are not good at standardized tests. On the first section, I almost ran out of time. I just had to randomly bubble in the answers to the last ten questions. There will be more to come on this subject later!

Post-test, I was able to do some shopping and see a Sapporo friend before catching the last train back home. I arrived home around 11. when I went to charge my cell phone, which had died on the train, I discovered that I had left my bag containing my cell phone charger on the train. Waah! I determinedly set off on foot for the train station before realizing what a dumb idea that was. So, I went home again.

Anyway, that was pretty much it about my journey to the big city. I'm sure it's much more than you wanted to know, but NaNoWriMo is apparently still infecting my fingers..."Oooh, a computer keyboard! Ready! Type every thought that comes into your head! Go!"

So, if you have made it this far, I am amazed! If I had prizes, I would give you one. Ooh, I do still have some Genghis Khan caramels...!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some days just don't go the way you plan...

Wow! I am happy to have survived today!

It started out innocently enough. I woke up to a nice, warm house thanks to my timed heater. Unfortunately, it took me much longer to get ready than I thought it was going to take. My bus was scheduled to leave at 6:24, and I did not leave the house until 6:28. It was still ok, though. My destination was the train station, because today I was visiting a new school in a town about 40 minutes away by train. So, since the next bus was not scheduled for another 1o minutes, I decided to walk. In cold weather, walking is often better than standing still.

When I reached the next stop, there was still quite a bit of time before the next bus was scheduled to come. So, I decided to walk on. Once I was well past the bus stop, I heard a familiar vroom behind me. Yes, you guessed it, I turned around and there was the bus! And I was nowhere near a bus stop! I briefly considered throwing myself at its mercy, but decided there was a strong possibility of getting run over instead. So, I waved goodbye to the bus as it drove away with its warm goodness.

After my long trudge, I arrived at the train station. For some reason, I had more difficulty than usual buying my ticket. I think it was because someone was standing behind me in line, and I felt like I was holding her up. This caused me to forget how to communicate!

Finally, I had my ticket! I walked around the station waiting for the train, and happened to pass a mirror. I discovered that something had gone very wrong with my hair! It looked decidedly weird. Unfortunately, I had my arms full of purse, teaching bag, and suit jacket, and so I could not do too much at that point. So, I went to get something to drink. As I was looking for change, I dropped my lovely suit jacket on the yucky floor of the station!

Once I got on the train, I dropped my unopened can of coffee on the floor of the train! Then, my cell phone disappeared from my pocket. When I moved my coat, I heard a clunk as it, too, hit the floor.

By this point, I was not feeling too happy or optimistic about the day.

Thankfully, the train ride was fairly uneventful. I had about 80 papers to make comments on, so I worked on that the whole ride. I hope the poor students will be able to read my handwriting!

Finally, I made it safely to school! School was actually one of the best parts of my day! All my classes were great, and the students were very eager and engaged. It was a great day! I was able to eat lunch with some students who seem to enjoy English, too. The teachers were really wonderful, too!

Then, it was back out into the big, bad world. I took a local train back home...the local train is kind of like a bus on railroad tracks. It was just one car. Once home, it arrived on the other side of the tracks from where the station was located. In order to get to the station, You enter a covered walkway, climb a flight of stairs, cross over the tracks, and go back down a flight of stairs. I had made it up and across, and was heading down, when I decided to try skiing on my knees. Yes, I slipped on a step, landed on my knees, and skidded down several steps. It really hurt both my knees and my pride. I had to answer many questions of "Daijoubu?" - basically, "Are you ok?" I think I forgot and answered in English, though. Oh, it hurt though! I skinned my knees in three places, and bruised the front of my ankle.

The day was not yet done, however. I was going to meet some teachers for dinner and walked out of my house to go meet them. Everything looked wet. Sadly, it was not just wet...it was that sneaky ice pretending to just be rain. I slipped a little bit as I was walking, but then thought I had things under control. I was that surprised then, when I hit a surprise icy patch and was down before you could say, "Boo." I'm not sure why you would want to say "Boo," but if you ever did, that how fast I hit the ground. I don't think I hurt anything that time...it is getting hard to tell where one injury ends and another begins!

But then, the day ended with a very nice dinner with three teachers, so all was well and good! We ate many delicious foods and had a good time talking!

By the way, I would like to note that I made it through November without any accidents. The random wild wind does not count as an accident, as there were no injuries involved! Perhaps it was the NaNoWriMo project...it is hard to get hurt when most of your spare time is spent working on a project at home.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Sunday!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? I don't know why I like this video, but there is just something about it that is very human and almost endearing. So, I thought I'd share it with you! Have a happy Sunday! I will probably see you again on the other side of November!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

40,000+

Well, I broke 40,000 words today! Will I make it to 50,000 before Tuesday? Stay tuned and see...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

I'm writing part of this blog in the San Pachi ramen shop at the end of what has been my most unorthodox Thanksgiving ever. Thanksgiving is not an international holiday like Christmas, so I've spent quite a bit of time explaining just what it is that we do. There were a few points during the day where I thought about what I would be doing if I were at home. All in all - at this point my ramen arrived.

So, anyhoo, I'm home now. My Thanksgiving ramen was, I have to say, pretty good. My Thanksgiving lunch was a school lunch of rice (duh), soup, cabbage, meat, some sort of noodle/salad/slaw, milk, and persimmons. I was very proud that I picked up my honkin' slippery slices of persimmon with my chopsticks...and I did not have to impale them. Anyway, one interesting thing about having a non-normal Thanksgiving is that I've actually had more time today to reflect on things I'm grateful for. I'll probably forget a few of them, but here goes!

1. I am thankful for my friends and family. There is an unwritten rule that says that all list of things one is grateful for must start with this item. No, seriously, I am so thankful for my family and friends - both near and far. I'm thankful for my old relationships, and the new ones I've been making here in Japan. It makes me think of the old Girl Scout song,
Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is silver,
And the other's gold.
OK, now a round. You start, and I'll follow. :-)
2. I am thankful that my family and I are all employed. Economically, it has been a really rough year for the world. For me personally, not only do I have a job, but it is a job that I love. I am amazed that I have an opportunity to follow my dreams. Yea! I am also so grateful for my coworkers. I work and teach with an awesome group of people - I am so lucky to know them. I love the variety of students that I get to work with. I may not know their names, but I am starting to recognize faces (and so grateful that many students choose to wear their uniforms even when they aren't in school :)
3. I am thankful for Hokkaido. Yes, I know this sounds kind of hilarious coming from the girl who is constantly complaining about being cold, but there are so many good things about being here. The scenery is beautiful and they definitely know how to do winter right here! There are super blankets, hot water bottles, handwarmers that go in adorable handwarmer cases, epic heaters with timer functions, warm boots for about $20, lots of tights and warm layers, heated carpets, and warmers to slip into shoes and gloves. I used to think about how wonderful it would be to come home to a toasty warm house without having to leave the heat running all day, and now I can do that!
4. I am thankful for the snow! I may not have a white Christmas, but I've had a white Thanksgiving! The snow is such a beautiful thing. It makes winter more enjoyable. Please note: I am in NO way thankful for ice!! Bah! I got marooned on an ice patch on my way to school last week. I was determined not to fall down, but I had a really hard time going forward. It was kind of embarrassing. I would take a few steps forward, and slide back to start. And I was at the top of a hill (and didn't want to go down the hill).
5. I am thankful for opportunites. I am really thankful to have this opportunity to live and work in another country. I've also had many opportunities while here - from professional things just to ways for me to grow as a person. Living in another country is definitely an adventure in many ways. I am honing new skills that will be transferable to wherever I go, like waltzing into a restaurant and sitting at a table for 1. I never would have done that back home.
6. I am thankful for spell check. How else would I know that opportunities above was misspelled! I'm also thankful for the freedom to leave it misspelled.
7. I am thankful for the internet. Through the internet, I can stay connected with my family and friends (see number 1). I can't imagine being so far away from my loved ones without the amazing advances in communication that have taken place recently.
8. I am thankful for airplanes that fly me back and forth across the world! Yea! Now, about those prices...
9. I am thankful for the number 9...ok, not really, but I did some editing of my list, and it was easier to just put something goofy here than go fix my whole numbering system.
10. I am thankful that I am learning to appreciate the between times - both long and short. The JET application process is one long exercise in patience. That was no so much fun. But, I am learning to appreciate quiet moments and appreciate what is around me. Or, I was at one point...sometimes I forget the things I've learned.
11. I am grateful for Seicomart and COD payments (again with numbering issues).
12. I am grateful for you! Thanks for reading my blog! Studies show that you are most likely a person who also falls under number 1, so enjoy being counted twice on this list. Love you! (unless you happen to be one of the crazy Russian guys from Sunday night...in which case, I don't love you, and you really need to get a life)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where'd that girl go who used to blog...?


...here I am!

Just in case you start wondering what happened to me, please look to your left. There is a tiny box with a word count in it. This is my NaNoWriMo project. It is slowly and painfully struggling to get to 50,000 by the end of the month!

I am also really buckling down and studying Japanese!

...help

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I fought the wind, and the wind won...

Several weeks ago, I used my bicycle to bring home some large items from a (sort of) nearby home store. Some of you may remember that it rained on me all the way home as I pushed my bicycle down the streets of Wakkanai. Well, I recently decided that I needed some more large items from that store. So, I decided to use the same system of bike-as-makeshift wheelbarrow. It worked really well, aside from an attack of nature.

My bike had been living at the office since the wreck. However, my plan involved the bike, so I walked down to the office and ended its exile. I decided that I would ride the bike to the store, because it would be kind of weird to push an empty bike several blocks to the store.

With no small amount of trepidation, I climbed aboard the Bike of Doom. I didn't want to go very fast, but unfortunately one has to maintain a certain level of speed while riding a bike in order to not fall off. Every time I hit a bump, went around a corner, or rode over a metal object, I let out an involuntary gleep.

Unfortunately, the day was also rather windy. So, I had the added factor of hair in my face and extra wobble. This was rather annoying in and of itself, but when layered with the stress of being back on the Bike of Doom, it was causing me to really dislike bike riding. Then, I discovered that the Bike of Doom's brakes must have been somehow damaged in the fall. Every time I used significant pressure on the brakes, it sounded like I was killing a goose. Not that I've ever killed a goose, but it's what I imagine killing a goose would sound like.

Not surprisingly, by the time I made it to the home store, I decided that I had absolutely no need to buy a helmet (this would have been the place), because I never wanted to ride that horrible thing again! At least I wouldn't have to ride it home. Or so I thought.

My shopping was without unfortunate incident, which was nice. I found what I needed - a floor chair, some shelves, a metal bar thing to hang clothes on, a hot water bottle, a straightening iron, and some lip gloss. OK, so I didn't really NEED the lip gloss, but it was pretty.

I took my loot out to my bike and loaded everything on board. This was no easy feat. all the small things went into the basket nicely, so my main difficulty was loading the chair (it folds out flat), the shelves, and the metal thing onto the back of the bike and the seat (the shelves and metal thing were in nice, flat boxes). The problem was that some of this stuff was either heavy or awkward (awkward is kind of an awkward word to type/spell, don't you think?). It was slightly embarrassing too. It was a really busy day at the store, and a tall blond foreign girl wrestling a giant load of stuff onto a bike is not exactly what you would call an everyday occurrence here in Wakkanai.

Finally, I had everything loaded on the Bike of Doom and secured with a bungee cord. Now, all I had to do was push the heavily-laden bike home. Unfortunately, I did not realize that another nature attack was hovering close at hand.

I slowly made my way through the parking lot, attempting not to get run over. This also is no easy feat. I made it out of the parking lot, and on to the sidewalk next to the main road. I was walking on the sidewalk next to an extremely busy intersection when it happened. An intense blast of wind hit the Bike of Doom and me, blowing my hair in my face and shooting all my carefully stacked heavy and awkward goods off the bicycle. Now, unfortunately, these goods had been attached to the bike with the bungee cord, so something is hanging halfway off the bike. I'm hanging on to the bike and this tangle of stuff going off the bike, while my other things are off in the grass. The little things in the basket were fine, by the way. They stayed put.

Unfortunately, this was no small gust of wind. The wind continued to blow and blow, and I couldn't move due to my precarious grip on whatever it was I was gripping. So, I'm standing there like a doofus, next to this busy intersection, stuff spread around, and I'm yelling into the wind, "Stop bloooooooooooooooooooowing!" It didn't help. I felt slightly more conspicuous here than when I was originally loading the bike. That now seemed like small peanuts conspicuousness.

I don't know how long I stood there...it felt like forever. Maybe people who hadn't seen the original impact thought it was a new statue, or performance art or something. I couldn't move while the wind was still blowing. My position was so precarious that I didn't think I would be able to keep everything upright, so I waited for the wind to quit (I was still yelling ineffectively at said wind). Eventually, some kind stranger pulled into the parking lot next to the sidewalk. He didn't speak English, and we all know how fluent I am in Japanese, but he helped untangle my knot of bike and box and bungee cord. Eventually, after some creative communication, I let him drive away with my stuff. He actually drove it to the landmark near my house, and then took it to the front of my apartment building. I might still be standing there, were it not for that person. It was still kind of strange to wave goodbye to your stuff. I rode the Bike of Doom back, brakes squawking all the way.

I left the Bike of Doom sitting at the street side of my apartment building for several days. I even left it there unlocked. No one had the decency to steal it, so I retired it to the shed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chris and Conrad - Rescue

I really love this song! I actually forgot about it for a few months. I know, I know, how can you forget a song that you love, right? Well, if you knew the sheer amount of music currently residing in my iTunes library, you would not be surprised. Anyway, when I first came to Japan, I listened to it a lot because it really encouraged me. I'm kind of glad that I forgot about it and rediscovered it, because it has been exactly what I needed to hear this week. So, I thought I'd share the lyrics with you. Then, I realized I could share a video too, so we will try breaking some new ground here...

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!


I've walked through the valley
Been tossed in the storm, yeah
And all of the demons
Were comin for more, yeah yeah
Only way I made it out
When I was alone
You came to my rescue
So I can make it home

Chorus:
You got me fallin
More in love with you
You got me wrapped up
I can barely even move

Even the good days
Can fade into black
Yeah I can only change
It happens too fast, too fast, too fast
I never even got a chance
If I was alone, if i was alone
If there was no rescue
I could never even make it home

Chorus
Chorus

When no one could find me
When everyone else had already moved on
You came to reach out
You never gave up on me
Even when hope was gone

Chorus

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

12,000+

...drumroll, please...

I passed 12,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project today on the ferry coming back from Rishiri! I am currently somewhere around 12,566 words. This cracks me up, because I can still remember when it was utter agony to produce 500 words. Now, these 12,566 words aren't necessarily great literature, mind you. But I'm having a good time! Unfortunately, my novel has been thoroughly hijacked, so I'm not exactly sure what in the world is going on. Please ask my characters if you see them around town. They are making me research finance, Ponzi schemes, and Bernie Madoff. Do you know how much I care about these things? A BIG ZERO! Maybe even in the negatives.

You would not believe how strong the wind was today! As a tribute, I'm thinking of naming my new novel Gone with the Wind. What's that you say? It's already taken? Oh, well. It was a good thought, I suppose. Today we were actually 25 minutes late getting off the ferry, and a big part of that was because they were having a really hard time parking the ferry. I am pretty sure it was due too the strong wind. Either that, or the captain forgot his glasses. The wind is actually rattling the mail slot in my door tonight. My door is inside a building. The entrance to the building is closed. Please explain this to me.

By the way, here are some responses to some of the questions on the Winter Wonderland post. I was going to respond in the comments section, but it was beginning to rival my NaNoWriMo project, so here they are:

Question about boots: The boots are actually my rain boots. My snow boots are so huge and heavy that I've decided to wait for deep snow before wearing them. It was really cold! The weird thing is that today felt colder, because I was all like, "Hey, no snow! Who needs a thick coat or a scarf and gloves?" This was poor thinking on my part.

Question about the amount of snow: I think somewhere between 1.5 - 2 inches of snow fell. It may have been a little more since some of it melted and turned into slush, which then turned into ice. When I stuck my finger in the snow outside my house, it appeared to be over an inch.

I don't know about this part: Most of the snow is now melted, except for some random spots with concentrations of snow/lack of sunlight. I am looking forward to it coming back, but boy do things get slick! Some of the roads were so incredibly slippery!

Question about everything not being a sidewalk: The part where my boot went deep is where I went off-roading. Everything kind of looks the same when it's covered with snow, but sometimes the snow is disguising things, like deep grass, or a curb.

Not really a question, just a response: I think everything looks beautiful when it's covered in some snow, too! And it is so weird to have snow and sea together. They just don't seem like they belong that way. I bet it would be ever weirder with sand! Snow and sand would just be completely bizarre!

Another interesting thing about the sea here is that it's not really a tourist thing, but it's a place for people to make their livelihoods. And it's equal opportunity for oceanfront housing. There aren't miles and miles of condos blocking the view. All kinds of houses have a front-row ocean view, from rickety old buildings to nicer houses. There are actually more of the old buildings than anything else. It's very real.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Winter Wonderland!

So, today being a national holiday, I decided to go out and enjoy the snow. It is sooo beautiful, but soooo cold! Eeep!
I was going to take the bus down to Noshappu, but I saw something that looked pretty, so I hopped off at Wakkanai Junior High instead and walked down to the sea. The curve of the hills on the other side of the bay (?) looked like something out of a dream. I tried to take a picture, but the picture does not do justice to what it looked like in real life.






As I was walking along the coast, I realized that all this snow kind of made the shore look like
Pensacola. A cold, cold Pensacola, but whatever! ;-). The photo looks cold to me because I was there, but maybe if you
haven't stood there, it won't look so cold and you can pretend like it's Pensacola.















Then, it got creepily dark over the water, even though the
sun was shining where I was standing (as evidenced by the shadow of what I think is my head in the shot).

















I learned an important lesson about the snow...well, I knew it, but application is difficult. When
you are out in the snow, not everything covered in white is a sidewalk.


Well, I'm off to a school festival! See you later!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Day

Ahhhhh, first day of NaNoWriMo down and 2054 words written. I'm pretty happy, but now I really have to go to sleep! I have been up way too late the past several nights, and it would be really nice not to have to blast off to work tomorrow, especially since there is snow and slush on the ground and the temperature is going to drop steadily for the next day or so.

I'm still loving the snow, though. It hung around for most of the day, though a good bit of it melted. Around 4:30, we had some fake snow (I don't really know what it was, but my Massachusetts informant told me that it wasn't snow). It was still really pretty, whatever it was. After that, the fake snow changed to real snow. It snowed for a few hours and re-covered the ground. It has stopped now, but I think it is supposed to start again sometime in the near future. I feel like I'm in a Christmas card!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Woohoo!

No question about it...it is definitely snowing now! I was out running to the store somewhere around 9:00 to get some dinner. None of this was happening at that point.

My plan was to stay up until midnight to get started on my NaNoWriMo project. I was about 279
words in when I decided to go check and see if there was any snow. I kind of doubted that there would be any snow.

The first thing I saw (from the entryway of the building) was what
appeared to be a heap of something on a white car. Imagine my surprise to see a layer of white on everything! I was hoping to see a few more snowflakes - I had no hope of accumulation, no matter how slight. And yet, it is everywhere! It's sooooooooo pretty! I don't know if it will still be around in the morning or not, but it sure is nice now!

Oh, and I made a pot of wassail on my heater! Everyone says not to use your oven to heat the house, but no one says anything about using your heater to cook! Soooooo, I had a nice pot there just kind of hanging out all afternoon and evening!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let it snow!

OK...I'm pretty sure SNOW IS COMING! We are actually supposed to have flurries around midnight tonight and tomorrow night!

...wait a minute...I cannot write about SNOW without something hot to drink...

All right, I'm ready to go now. I have a nice hot mug of green stuff and some nice
blogging music. No, it's not a jig...that would be clogging music! Here is my green stuff! It's actually a green tea latte an
d is pretty delicious.

Hey, the song is on that my roommate played for me when I found out my family was moving to Mississippi! It's actually called "Liz on Top of the World." :-) That was a good day! In some ways, it's hard to believe that was two whole years ago! On the oth
er hand, a few things have happened in all of our lives since then! I am really looking forward to my visit home in less than two months! I am looking forward to hugs, burritos, and being in the same time zone! Yea! And...dare I hope...fabulous weather??????? It's
77
degrees at home right now...yum!

Howeverrrrrrrrr, we do have some snow coming! And this is new, and therefore quite exciting to me! Here are some pictures of my Missis
sippi snowfall in early 2008:

No, it was really exciting! Actually, I do have to say that one year - maybe Christmas of 2004 - my brother and I braved copious amounts of snow and ice to battle our way home for Christmas! We made it home on Christmas Day! We had to postpone our celebration for a few d
ays though, until we could battle our way through more snow and ice to a town a few hours away to rescue our foster brother and bring him home. That was another interesting day. I am actually pretty glad that I don't have to drive in snow and ice here. It can be kind of difficult, because you never
know what's ahead. when my brother and I were driving home, I remember that both lanes of the interstate would be clear for ages. Just as I decided it was safe to pass whatever old pokeypants we were following and swung into the left lane, bam! That lane would be solid ice/snow/whatever. This happened multiple times! And I remember hitting a big chunk of ice (or a hole) when we were on the rescue mission and being very concerned about the underside of my car!

While I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of snow, do you want to see some pictures? I will try to get them into this post, but Blogger is soooooooo difficult when it comes to getting pictures where you want them. Mine are always stuck at the top of my post and it is impossible to drag them all the way down the post. Aaaaagh! Maybe there is a trick I don't
know about...??

I think there were some questions about my heater. Let me see if I can "enlighten" you. I
took this first picture so you could get an idea of the scale of the heater in relation to other things. It's about the size of my hand. No, seriously, I was trying to see if I could take a shot with the timer from a certain shelf and this was the test version. I don't really know why my left hand is in the shot. I don't think my right hand (the one taking the picture) knew what my left hand was doing. It's either trying to help, or it's slightly publicity hungry.


The timer shot worked pretty well. In case you are wondering, I am NOT touching the stovepipe-looking thing. I have made that mistake a few times and am not planning to make it any more! The pot on top the stove if full of water to keep the house from getting too dry. I've actually turned my pot of water into a bit of a stew. I threw some cinnamon, an orange peel, and an old rosehip and hibiscus teabag in. It smelled really good for a while, but I've had to keep adding water, so now it's a little diluted. I may need to refresh the cinnamon.

Well, it's 11:37 now, so I am going to go out on a quick snow check. I think I saw some flakes earlier when I went to grab some dinner and then again when I went to the store. I'm about 93% sure, anyway. I'll be right back...

...I'm back. Nothing yet...just some really cold wind. Hmmm, what else can I write about? I think I will take a little break and read for a while.

This article probably explains why I do not really like the masks everyone is wearing now!

The wind is really loud tonight. I'm reeeeeally getting tired now - I may have to just be content with the possible snow sighting earlier this evening...zzzzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome!

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to...Umbrella Number 7! If stocks have been rising for umbrella manufacturers over the past few months, it is probably due to me. Unfortunately, when one walks everywhere, an umbrella is essential. Imagine not having a roof on your car. It'd be nice on pretty days, but it sure would be a pill to drive to work in a monsoon.

Here is a brief umbrella history (it's been a slow day);

Umbrella #1 was a nice black umbrella I bought in Tokyo. I think it has been the most expensive of the umbrella bunch so far. I left it in someone's car.

Umbrella #2 was a cheap umbrella, but it was cute and pink. The Wakkanai wind blasted it apart the first day I used it.

Umbrella #3 was a clear plastic umbrella. It too, was blown apart in the wind the first time I opened it.

Umbrella #4 was a clear plastic umbrella that looked like everyone else's umbrella and disappeared. It never even made it to Wakkanai. I bought it in Ebetsu, and in Ebetsu I assume it still is.

Umbrella #5 was another clear plastic umbrella (Seicomart special - stronger than #3) that I left somewhere.

Umbrella #6 was another cute pink one that I now can't find. I'm sure it's here somewhere...

And, Umbrella #7 is the clear plastic Seicomart kind. It's the kind I buy when I'm caught in the rain and there is a Seicomart nearby. I hope it has a nice long life in my home.

Hmmm...12 weeks and 7 umbrellas. If I can make this umbrella last to week 14, I will be averaging 1 umbrella every two weeks.

Have I really only been here 12 weeks?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good times!

My official welcome party was this evening, and it was a lot of fun! As usual, I was confused about half the time, but it was a wonderful evening. We started with volleyball - fortunately or unfortunately, my knee was well enough to allow me to play. Of course, my style of playing volleyball is not exactly high-impact. Some people did epic dives and slides for the ball that looked incredibly painful. This is my strategy: If a ball comes, get out of the way. It's pretty simple, and we did win a match, so I'm not complaining. I think it was the first time in my life to win a volleyball match...or be on a team that won. Believe it or not, I actually hit the ball a few times! And most of my serves were good!

It really brought back memories of being a camper at Kamp Kanakomo however many years ago. Come to think of it, that was about half my lifetime ago...eeek! Anyway, at Kanakomo, campers major in one sport, minor in 2, and then have some electives. One year, volleyball was one of my electives. Naturally, dance was my major both years! Anyway, I will never forget being in a game against one of the guys' teams. We were (as is usually the case with my volleyball teams) losing, and our counselor started pulling out all the stops. She promised us popsicles if we won (or maybe it was even if we hit the ball...things were really not going well). At one point, she stuck the whole team on the court. We still lost.

After the games, we went to an izikaya (I can't spell that word, but come to think of it, most of you probably can't either... ;-) and ate tons of delicious food. I even ate an octopus ball that was pretty good. I doubt I'll be making them at home anytime soon, though. We played a game where I had to answer tons of random questions. I did get the one about the prime minister of Japan correct...BWAHAHAHA! Even better, I got the one about the head of our office correct! It would have been really embarrassing to get that one wrong. It was kind of sad really, I worked so hard to memorize the PM before my JET interview in Nashville (naturally, they didn't bother to ask me that) and then Japan changed their ruling party...sigh. After the quiz, I had to do a speech. It was very short. Then, we ate more food,and it was time to go home. I wish we could have parties every Monday! It's a nice way to start the week. ;-)

Anyhoo, I suppose I should start drifting towards bed. Perhaps I will curl up under my mountain of blankets with a cookie or two,a cup of tea made with water from my new tea kettle, and some Jane Austen. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things that make me giggle, part 1

Yes, I know that I am easily amused. However, the following things added a little sparkle to my life, and I hope you like them, too!

Look in the front of the boat...Captain Gull!



Isn't this the cutest packaging ever! I bought it, AND IT WAS FILLED WITH BEANS! I thought that was a nasty trick. So far, it's Beans 15, Me 0



Surely I am not the only one who sees 2 problems with this tag!




Don't you just want to buy this doughnut! I think this was my first encounter with funny packaging in Japan. I didn't buy it.




Cooking in Japan

I don't usually cook here in Japan. I often enjoyed cooking in America, but it's just not something I do much of here. My kitchen is small and not well-stocked. If I have an opportunity to eat with a friend, I will take it anytime! Plus, it's just more fun to eat out!

Today, however, I decided to get back on the old cooking bandwagon (at least for lunches). I went through one of the cookbooks I brought with me and found a few recipes I could make here (anything with tortillas is out...this saddens me). I picked up the ingredients for Chickpea Curry and am going to try to make it tonight after church. I also found almost all the ingredients for Wassail (woohoo). I just can't find whole cloves. It's really funny to shop in Japan, because in some ways the process feels upside down. Ingredients that were difficult to find at home are plentiful here, and vice versa. I do have to say that cabbage was plentiful today. One could purchase a giant bag of six cabbages. Why anyone would want six large cabbages, I know not, but there they were.

OK, I have my cooking music on and I'm ready!

...nine songs later... Here it is! OK, so it's not a culinary masterpiece. As Bert says in the movie Mary Poppins, "Still better then a finger in the eye, ain't they?"

Also, I would like to report that I believe I have figured out the mischievous rice cooker at last! Look out, world!

Another thing I am super excited about is my new tea kettle. It is kind of similar to the one I had back home. I think my new one is slightly larger, though. Of course, my kitchen is much smaller, so maybe it just looks bigger in proportion to the kitchen. Who knows!

Well, I need to go see what I can do about cleaning this apartment. If I am successful, I will have had a very domestic day - cleaning, laundering, and cooking! Aaand going to the coffee shop, studying some Japanese, shopping, and going to church. It's been a pretty busy day!

Wish me luck with the cleaning (I need it)!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God bless us, everyone

Well, I've been pulling a pretty good Tiny Tim impression, if I do say so myself! Due to a series of unfortunate events on Monday, I fell off my bicycle and landed on the outside of my right leg, making it the third blow to the same spot in less than a month (yes, I used to be a ballet dancer). Due to the large amount of pain and under severe threats from home, on Tuesday I had my first taste of the Japanese health care system. It really wasn't bad! I had no idea what was going on, but this is not a new thing for me! I never know what is going on. I was on crutches for a little while, but thankfully I have recovered enough to be finished with them (I think). They were kind of embarrassing and rather unwieldy. Even without the crutches, I look like a doofus going up and down stairs one at a time. I feel like I need an eye patch and a parrot. People tend to carry things for you when you look like a doofus, though.

In other news this evening, Mt. Rishiri is now a snowcapped mountain. It is frightfully gorgeous! I have now been all the way around Rishiri Island, and the whole thing is just amazingly beautiful. There are a few fall colors right now.

...hahaha...I'm listening to a Billie Holiday CD, and I was sure that she just sang, "Sun shines around me, but deep in my house, it's as cold as ice," which is funny because I was just thinking about how cold my house is right now. Apparently, she sang heart and not house. Shows ya where my brain is!!

Anyway, as I was saying, there have been a few fall colors so far, but the colors seem pretty muted here as a whole landscape. There are pockets of fabulous color, which is nice, but it doesn't seem to be widespread. I really am looking forward to seeing snow, but I'm a little nervous about the amount of snow and the length of time it will be hanging around. I am looking forward to trying skiing and snowboarding (sounds kind of funny coming from the girl who just crashed her bike). If I am glowing by the end of the year, it's from all my x-rays this year! Good grief!

Well, I'm really quite cold, so I think I am going to set up my space heater and bury myself under all my blankets. Call me in the spring!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hmmm...



A picture from last February came on my screensaver a minute ago, and it reminded me of a thought I had that day that I had forgotten about until now.

This was the day my roommate and I were driving to Nashville for my interview for the JET Programme. We took the, ahem, scenic route and som
ehow managed to turn a 6 hour drive in
to a 10 hour expedition. As we drove, I remember thinking that if I got into this program, I would never be able to take long scenic trips like this. After all, Japan has a third of the population of the United States in an area about the size of California. I was a little sad, because I love long trips through naturally beautiful areas.




...I may have been misinformed

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jaded - or not...

Today did not begin well. I was scheduled to go to Rishiri today, which means catching a bus at 6:24 or 6:39. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my clock this morning and it said 7:00! I was in for a much better surprise when my alarm clock went off and I realized I'd been dreaming. Pshew!

It actually turned out to be a pretty awesome day! I visited a school that I really enjoy. The classes are really small and the kids are a lot of fun. This afternoon, they were doing some preparation for their school festival. I was able to watch them practice their dance, which was totally cool. I also got to help them make decorations for the 3rd year classroom...cough, cough. Those of you who know my amazing artistic abilities can pity the school. I almost missed the ferry coming home - they were just about to wheel away the gangplank (??) thing when I came flying through the doors of the terminal. I would have hated to miss the ferry...not because it was merely the last ferry home today, but because it was my favorite ferry! This ferry is totally lux! It has comfy SEATS and gorgeous decorations. Plus, it doesn't stink! I happily ensconced myself in a seat and prepared to enjoy the journey home with my new toy - an iPod touch. I bought it to study Japanese, yet somehow I find myself playing the Oregon Trail, Lemonade Tycoon, or Tap Tap Revenge quite a bit. Oops. You can also get several free books to read! Oh, and you can track your calories, use the thing as a flashlight, do crossword puzzles, or keep track of your grocery list.

Anyhoo, I was just going to run out and take a quick picture of Rishirifuji and then be done with pictures. I was looking forward to the Oregon Trail and relaxing in the warm cabin. This plan worked well for about 5 minutes.









None of these pictures even begin to do justice to tonight's sunset. It. was. incredible.

Wish you were here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why not?

I recently found about about this fun (or fun-sounding) project coming up in November. Basically, the goal is to write a novel in November. You do this by writing 50,000 words. I'm going to try it out and see how it goes. I'm hoping it will help keep me from going into hibernation. When it gets cold, I just tend to spend my free time buried under a pile of blankets. This works fine for Mississippi's short cold spells, but I don't see it working out well here in Wakkanai! I have no idea what I'm going to write about! If you'd care to join me, you can click here.

It will be epic.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Uh oh...

The weather in Wakkanai has been so fabulous since my arrival in August that I had slightly forgotten just how much I hate being cold. Buildings here are rarely air-conditioned, and the weather has basically been that nice temperature where all you need is a light jacket. Well, apparently the weather decided to change while I was away. Now, it is COLD! My house is starting to get that unpleasant chill. Tomorrow or Tuesday I am going to ask my supervisor how my epic heater works. I'm pretty sure he will laugh! I'm really not ready to go into heater mode, but I also really don't like being cold. I've fallen asleep in my dorky winter hat a couple times.

I do have some good news, though! I found that the cafe across the street serves really nice hot drinks. It may be my new after work spot! Today I had a caramel milk tea (YUM!). Perhaps I really should consider joining Curves! Yes, there is a Curves in Wakkanai!

So, if you don't hear from me for a little while, it's probably because I'm burrowed somewhere. And fall has just begun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two months!

As of today, I've been in Japan for two months! In some ways, it feels like it has been so much longer - perhaps because the summer ended so much earlier.

I just got back from a week-long seminar, so I'm not going to write much this evening. I just wanted to post in honor of the day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Silver Week

It has always been an interesting fact that a four day work week often feels just as long or longer than a five day work week. I am pleased to report that this situation does not apply to a two day work week. Having completed my two day work week, I feel like I've been working for...two days. I was pretty tired yesterday, but this was probably due to the fact that I spent my holidays walking and biking.


When I last left you, I had ridden my bike to Noshappu and hadn't quite decided what I was going to do next. Well, I found a few things to do. Monday afternoon, I hopped back on my bike and drove off in the other direction, ostensibly to study Japanese. I pedaled out a couple miles (I think), heading toward Furani Park. I had visited it once before - it had some nice trails and places to sit (plus, someday I am totally going down the giant slide). As I got close to the park, I remembered seeing a sign for a bird house. I decided that this lead was something I wanted to pursue, so when I saw the sign again, I turned left and drove off into unchartered territory. Never fear, I chartered it just for you!



If I hadn't seen the mountains in the distance and known there was the sea just beyond the growing things, I'd have thought I was somewhere completely different.




Pretty soon, I was at the bird house, which is really a lake and a visitors' center. It was very peaceful. I remember seeing it when I first arrived in Wakkanai and wondering if I could visit it. Well, I did! Here is a picture of my lovely new bike visiting the lake:


I like it! It really is fun to almost be driving again. The nice thing about bikes is how quiet the ride is when you are away from traffic. I wish I could listen to my iPod on my bike, but I am pretty sure that is not legal!

Speaking of legalness, it's always interesting to find those things that appear to be universal. I think that one is people being pulled over by the police on long weekends. I have to say I got a small jolt when I heard a police car behind me, but they were not pulling me over, thankfully!

Monday evening I met up with another ALT in town and we grabbed some dinner and ice cream and did some shopping. Then, we decided that we needed to get out of town, so we went to the train station and bought tickets for Asahikawa, the nearest significant city. It's about a 3.5 hour train ride from Wakkanai.

So, early the next morning, I got on my little bike and pedaled across the city. It was too early for the buses or I totally would have caught one. We made it to the train station on time (there is no room for error with trains), and pretty soon, we were off. I love the train ride out of Wakkanai because the scenery is just beautiful.

I'm going to end this post here, because I want to post some pictures from our trip, but they will make this post too long.  So please stay tuned... ;-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Biker Chick


Happy Silver week!  This week, we have three days off from work.  Japan celebrates Autumnal Equinox, Respect for the Aged Day, and National Holiday. Due to an unfortunate turn of events, I am staying in The Wakk. I've a pretty good break so far - I was really worried that it was going to be tsumaran.  But, yesterday I bought a bicycle! I've ridden all over town (by the way, this is a very long town).  It's been surprisingly fun!  Yesterday, I rode to the fish market and there was some sort of traditional dancing competition/festival going on. It was very neat! There was also delicious bubble tea there. I also bought some fish, as that was the main reason for going (well, the bubble tea did play into it a bit...). I don't know what I bought, but it was really good! On the way home, I totally felt like the quintessential foreign English teacher riding through town with fish in the basket of her bicycle. The I bought some totally mod bathroom accessories, and the illusion was messed up a little. I would post a picture of my new bike, but my computer is being a little...cranky. The picture above is where I was riding this morning.

Today, I rode my bike from my house to Cape Noshappu.  This was a pretty fur piece, and would have been excellent exercise had I not been derailed by cafe au lait and baked goods. About halfway between my house and Noshappu is a great little coffee shop that serves the best cafe au lait known to mankind. It is amazingly delicious! So I simply had to stop, since I was riding by anyway. Then, as I passed Saijo, I wanted to stop for some healthy crackers that I like there. But, I was derailed by the bakery inside. Everything looked and smelled so delicious! As I was about to check out, one of the bakers brought out a fresh basket of hot, crusty French bread.  Well, I had to try some, didn't I? Then I again felt like the foreign English teacher with my bread in the basket of my bike.

The bikes here are definitely built for being a viable mode of transportation.  I have a big basket on the front of my bike, and a place where I can strap a parcel on the back.

Well, I haven't decided what I'm going to do this afternoon yet, but I think that tomorrow I will go to one of the islands. I also need to clean my house, but I don't want to waste any valuable light and nice weather! according to MSN, it's 60 degrees right now. So, it's a little chilly, but biking or walking tends to warm you up pretty well. I think I will go somewhere and study Japanese.  Now, to bike or take the bus...