Saturday, February 27, 2010

99...

Alternate title: Don't eat the yellow snow...






Today was Day 1 of the Japan Cup - the dogsled races in Wakkanai!

The dogs came in all shapes and sizes!


There were so many adorable dogs today! I saw a few of them pulling sleds, but most of them were just hangin' with their buds and eatin' doughnuts. OK, maybe not...I did see one eating snow, though!


















OK, I found this random picture of food while I was uploading pictures...doesn't it look kind of gross! Salt and Chocolate!





















The last picture is a gorgeous Newfoundland dog pulling heavy stuff. He or she won! The first picture is also a competitor in the pulling heavy stuff contest...but that dog (a beautiful St. Bernard) kind of charged off the track into the crowd. It was kind of funny... :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

98...


So, I had the best of intentions to go on The Diet today. I wonder if there is a diet called The Diet. That would be kind of funny. You know, Japan's legislative branch is the Diet of Japan...hmm.

Anyway, my diet was going fairly well until I was walking to the store and got derailed by a cafe I'd been meaning to visit. I bravely walked in (going to a new restaurant alone is a bit daunting), sat down, and wound up having a delicious dinner and making a new friend! It was a wonderful experience! And my new friend, the cafe owner, may possibly speak less English than I speak Japanese (I know, difficult to believe). But talking to her is definitely good for my language skills, though not so good for my waistline.

Things weren't really too bad at that point - dinner was a hamburger steak thing, a salad, some soup, and a few potato wedges. Well, and some tasty small pieces of crusty baguette with butter and jam. Oh, and oolong tea and coffee. I didn't actually order coffee, as I generally can't handle caffeine past 3:00 or so, but she was so sweet and made it for me, so I drank it. But really it doesn't seem tooooooooooo beeeeee affectinggggggg me AT all I am pleeased to report!!!!!!!!!!!

The trouble happened when I got home and was catching up on Facebook/email/all that stuff. I had accidentally left some cookies near my computer workstation (ok, a plastic tote on the floor). Well, the cookies started calling me. So I ate one. Then, the cookie was lonely, so I sent down some of its friends.

Well, I thought I'd do a quick blog about my failed attempt at dieting, so I headed to Blogger and got this message:

https://www.blogger.com/app/nocookies.html

How did it KNOW? OK Blogger, I will try to obey you as closely as possible in the near future.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

97...


This post will alternately be known as The Weekend of Helmets :-)

Well, this was another completely amazing weekend. I went to Furano for the winter HAJET meeting (HAJET is our prefectural JET organization). The whole weekend was really crazy and amazing. Let me see if I can start from the beginning.

On Friday, I left the office at lunchtime in order to make it to Furano by a decent hour. HAJET meetings are held at various locations around Hokkaido, and though Furano is a 5 hour trip by train, it was closer than the meeting held in the fall. I finished packing and made it to the train station with some time to spare. I walked up to the ticket counter, and had the following conversation with the ticket agent. It has been translated into English for your convenience.

Me: Ummm...Furano?
Agent: One way?
Me, waving hand in a traveling motion: Umm...bath?

Yes, bath is ofuro and round trip is oufuko. As soon as it was coming out, I knew it was wrong, but it was too late to do anything! Apparently, I must have flustered the ticket agent, because I wound up with a one way ticket anyway.

The train to Asahikawa was fairly uneventful, and we arrived at the station with about 10 minutes before the Furano local train was scheduled to leave. By the time I boarded the train, though, there was nowhere to sit, so I took up a position standing at the back of one of the cars. I considered sending the full glowering power of me at the people taking up seats with their various and sundry items. I harnessed it as best I could. Then, I heard a voice behind me say hello. I turned in slight surprise, and there was a man who was probably in his late 40's or early 50's (hard to tell). Anyway, I didn't know him, but he was a local rice farmer who I think wanted to practice some English, which was cool with me. We talked about the Beatles and some other random things. Then, he sang part of the song "Yesterday." It was really cute and a very interesting experience!

When I got to Furano, I decided that I would rather take the bus then a taxi, so I hopped on a bus and hoped for the best. In Wakkanai (before I could read where the bus was going), I had about a 95% chance of winning bus roulette, so I figured things would pretty much be the same in Furano.

I was wrong.

The bus blasted out of town and headed off into the darkness. I actually lost cell phone reception, which does not happen frequently for me. When the bus driver found out I was er...misplaced...he told me just to keep riding. We reached the end of the line, then turned around and went back to start. The nice thing was that I didn't have to pay anything for my tour of the lovely (dark) countryside. From the station, I hopped in a cab and was at the hotel in about 5-10 minutes or so.

The next day, after our meeting time was over, I headed out with some friends to a snow park type place. We wanted to try parasailing behind a snowmobile, but the wind was too high (probably to the relief of my parental units, now that I think about it...).

Anyway, instead we decided to do a set of 4 activities. We chose snowmobiling, the banana boat,
snow 4-wheeling, and tubing. All 4 activities were amazingly fun! And it was my first time to do any of these activities in the snow! And we wore helmets for all of them!

First was snowmobiling. I thought of my brother when we picked this activity. I think he would like to go snowmobiling, maybe. There was a little course carved out in the snow...I liked the straight paths, because you could get a little speed going. I think all three of us had too much speed at one time or another, because all three of us ran off the course at least one time each and had to get dug out by the staff. I was super proud one time when I ran off into deep snow but managed to drive back on the track and not stay marooned.

Our second activity was the banana boat. I still have the giggles over this one, because it was sooooo goofy. It was an inflated boat kind of shaped like a banana (hence the name) like you would drag behind a boat in the lake. This one was pulled behind a snowmobile, though. Sadly, someone else has the pictures, because it's probably one of those things that you have to see to appreciate the full goofiness. Our boat only tipped over one time, dumping the three of us into the snow.

Number three was the snow buggy activity, which was basically 4 wheeling in a course like the snowmobile course, but with higher snow walls. I was a little tall for it and had to keep moving my leg to make certain tight turns. Again, the three of us just looked incredibly goofy...but it was fun!

Lastly, we went tubing, which was just like sledding, but in a big tube down a big, awesome hill! It was so much fun, but treading up said big, awesome hill was a bit tiring. Coming down was incredible, though! If you are ever in furano in the winter (!), I highly recommend ALL of these activities!!

The next day, I tried something I've wanted to try all winter...snowboarding! Basically, it was both exhilarating and terrifying!

I took a two hour lesson with a friend - we had an awesome instructor! We learned all kinds of things from him. I learned that I am terrible at speed control (it's kind of fun to go fast, but frightening when you go too fast). One of my favorite parts of the lesson was what I have dubbed the "snowboard tango." Our instructor taught us to go toeside (aka backwards down the mountain), but he held our hands while we were learning - it's fun to snowboard when someone is hanging on to you - there is less of a chance of crashing.

Also, partway through the day, my board decided that it had had enough and would only do one of two things henceforth. 1) zoom off the side of the ski hill into the deep, fresh snow, or 2) ignore all commands from rider and point nose straight down the hill in an attempt to break an Olympic record. You see, there is a reason they are not called snowboard drivers. The board seems to pretty much be in control sometimes. I think that when I left, the Furano ski hill looked a bit like like a re-creation of Pompeii - human outlines in the snow. It was a bit embarrassing at points. I'd be looking cool, snowboarding along, and then I would wind up basically in a big ploomp of snow. It's REALLY hard to dig yourself out when your feet are strapped to a board! I'd finally get out, stand up (again, no easy feat when your feet are stuck to a board), get going, and head back into the deep snow. Gah!

I have to say, though, when everything is working properly, and you are sailing down the hill back and forth under a blue sky, snowboarding is completely awesome!! And like my snowboarding buddy (who was much better than I at not zooming off the hill) said, you feel really cool! Even my big eggshell helmet was kind of cool!

The weekend wasn't only filled with activities that required helmets! I rode over halfway home with a couple other northern JETs, and we stopped at an amazing Egyptian restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. We were pretty hungry after snowboarding/skiing - the other member of our party had been skiing that day...it's helpful to have a skiier around when you are snowboarding - they can pull you out of places you don't want to be with their poles. Anyway, the restaurant was in Asahikawa and completely yummy! Everyone's food turned out to be amazing!

A few hours later, we were in Bifuka, where I caught the train and rode it the final few hours home! All in all, it was a pretty amazing weekend, even though my muscles are still sore!