Saturday, April 24, 2010

Places near home

Here are 16,000 words for you to enjoy, plus a few of my own.

We had a rare day where all of Rishiri was visible. I was thoroughly excited, as I have been waiting for this moment for some time! Aaaaahhh....hello, gorgeous!

On the way, pictures from the ferry...this one is Rebun
And this is part of Rishiri - the day started with pretty good cloud cover. The above pictures were taken in the afternoon.
And, back to the mountain...
Hello, me
Turning around and taking a picture the other way
On the way home! Yummy, isn't it! That jut of land is Cape Noshappu!
Twice a year, swans migrate from somewhere to somewhere else. On the way, they take a quick stop at a lake about 30 minutes from my house. Another ALT and I biked to the lake to see if they were there! Well, as you can see, they were!
Though the pictures look peaceful, these big boys were LOUD
I was ever-so-slightly nervous. But their gorgeousness won me over (as long as they kept their distance).
There were a LOT of them! We were really surprised.
They look so sweet and innocent here.
I'd been looking forward to seeing them since I got here, so it was pretty exciting to say hello!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fun with Japanese

Today, I needed to get a translation on some Japanese words. So, I decided to use Google Translate. It usually does decent work - I switched to Google Translate when it translated a sentence as "Cheers for hard work," which made much more sense than the way my previous translation service was interpreting the same sentence..."It seems to be the tired way."

By the way, I actually wrote what you see in the picture! I'm kind of excited. Doesn't it look cool? I wrote out the dialogue in my textbook in hiragana for practice.

Anyway, Google Translate let me down today. By a lot. Now, I'm sure some of what happened was due to user error, but here is a synopsis of what I got today.

I accidentally typed "soshitetakusan," and got "N and the geek." This caused a minor giggle to pop out.
I typed "wa-ruda" in hirigana, and got "I Rerelease etc."
So, I typed "wa-ruda" in katakana and got "waruda" as the English translaton. Gee, thanks.
Then, I typed "kappu" in hiragana and got "pu hue" back. Now that was confusing!

Ah, Japanese, one day I will conquer you! Or, perhaps we can at least be friends!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh, my aching pride!

The next time I have an urge to participate in a group athletic type excursion, please hand me some yen and point me in the direction of some shops. Things will be much safer for me that way.

One would think that crashing the Bike of Doom into a trough, crashing a snowboard after trying to do an impression of Shaun White, and wanting to pass out from exhaustion into a pile of fresh snow while snowshoeing would be enough to teach one that one's own impression of one's capabilities do not always match one's actual capabilities.

One would think.

So, a few weeks ago, I heard about an opportunity to participate in a bike ride for charity. It sounded interesting, so I emailed the coordinator to find out how strenuous the ride would be. It didn't sound too bad, so I decided to participate. It would be for charity, plus it would give me a chance to hang out with some new people!

As with most things, the event was scheduled far away from my home. So, I decided just to make a fun weekend of it. I figured I could schedule in some shopping time, and I even found a nice place to stay!

The morning of the ride, I took the train for about an hour and was picked up at the station by another participant. Right away, I knew I was in a bit of trouble, as he was wearing a hard core biker outfit (bicycler outfit! not leather and chains!). My second clue that I was in trouble was when he assumed I would need to change. I was wearing jeans, something I assumed was a normal outfit for a pedal around town. When we arrived at the meeting point, I was slightly dismayed to notice that everyone else was wearing at least some type of athletic apparel. Oh, well.

Since I had already eaten breakfast, the others headed to Seicomart to get some food while I got fitted for my bike. Yes, Mom, I even put on a helmet. When I was all fitted and appropriately trained in how to operate the gears, I hopped on the bike and pedaled off! Well, more accurately...I hopped on the bike and tried not to fall off. I couldn't believe how wobbly I felt! I think it was because the bike had those little skinny tires. I also haven't biked much since my crash. Naturally, I immediately had to go down a steep hill to get to Seicomart.

At this point, I had one thought, "What have I gotten myself into!" One or two choice words may have escaped - I can neither confirm nor deny this. Then I started thinking about how awful PTSD must be - I mean if I was feeling THAT shaky after a mild crash (or a few mild crashes if you include the other bike crashes and a snowboard crash), what must it be like to live and re-live the trauma of war. I can't even imagine.

I pedaled into Seicomart and met up with the rest of the crew. After grouping and regrouping, we finally set off on our trip. I hung to the back of the crowd, as it seemed like a good place for me to be. The first chunk of the trip was basically downhill. Well, everyone zoomed away down the hill, and I cautiously rode my brake all the way down. I did catch up with the group eventually, though. One girl fell off her bike - thankfully, she was mostly all right. I hope she is not too sore today!

We continued to bike on. Things flattened out, and I enjoyed chatting with other riders. Unfortunately, what goes down must come up, and before I knew it, the road was rising beneath my feet (and not in a good way). At that moment, I realized one of the things in life that I can't stand - biking uphill. I had forgotten just how much I hated it when I was younger, and here in Wakkanai, most of the places I bike are fairly flat.

Well, we went up and up and up and up and up and my legs gave up. I was almost always the last one to the top of the hill. Many times I only reached the top by getting off and pushing, the ultimate embarrassment in group biking. Of course, sometimes I was going just as fast as everyone else by pushing, but it was still embarrassing.

There were a few points toward the beginning of the ride where I felt like giving up and pedaling back to a coffee shop, but my pride couldn't take it. So, I soldiered on. Eventually, we reached a hotel away up high somewhere, where we rested for a little while and had coffee. I think it was around this time that I realized that my pride was bruised in more ways than one. Thankfully, I was not the only one who was aching!

The journey after the hotel was all downhill, a fact for which I was eternally grateful! It's amazing how your concerns tend to disperse after you have run yourself ragged! I was still behind the others, but this time it was because I was enjoying the scenery.

The rest of the day was really fun - we grilled burgers and chilled, then chilled some more. It's easy to chill in Hokkaido! although, when we were going up those hills, I think I could have faceplanted in a snowbank and sizzled all the way down to the earth.

Perhaps now I have learned my lesson and will do one of two things in the future. Choice 1 - refrain from athletic events. Choice 2 - exercise more starting now so I will be more ready. I will also need to purchase some decent athletic clothes so I fit in with the athletic crowd. The trick is to make sure they are properly broken in before the next event, though.

Of course, there is always Choice 3 - organize a Shopping for Charity event next year, complete with restaurant and cafe tour. Now that's hard core!