Saturday, March 22, 2014


No, not curling hair. The winter sport. You know, the one with ice and brooms and a big rock with a handle. Looks something like this:

First of all, I’d like to say that I owe an apology to the curling world. Curling looks so easy on the above video, right? Those ladies look like people you might actually know. They are wearing earrings. They just glide across the ice and do their sweeping thing like it's the easiest thing in the world.

This is not true.

The day started out quite normally. I went to lunch with a friend. See, we look pretty normal here, right?



Well, we picked up another friend and headed to the curling hall, where we met up with a family of friends – my three skiing buddies and their dad. I wish I had a picture of the outside of the curling hall, because it was pretty dodgy.

We went inside, bought our tickets (only about $2 for 4 hours of curling), and changed into the rental curling shoes. We had to put special covers over our left shoes. The covers either made us slide more or slide less. For at least 6 of us (you may remember that there were only 7 of us total), it was our first time curling. So we were all pretty clueless. The shoes were so slippery that we almost wiped out walking across the wooden floor. You can imagine what happened when we hit the ice.

The ice is MUCH SLICKER than it appears. And I think the shoes are designed to provide maximum slippage. Here are someone’s shoes:


Three people had researched a little bit about curling, so they started a fast English discussion about curling rules or strategy or something. After a few minutes, I turned to a friend who is a native Japanese speaker and said that I had no idea what they were talking about. She laughed and said that she thought she just wasn’t keeping up with the English. Nope. That was a whole different language. Curlinglish.

We practiced for a while, and then started up a game.

IMG_1286 IMG_1267

Somehow, we played 4 rounds and scored nothing.

I can’t imagine how that happened.

Take a minute to paint this picture in your mind. The person with the stone kicks off and gracefully glides across the ice on one knee. She releases the stone. It slides down the ice, and she tumbles over. The sweepers are ready to sweep. But the stone passes them, and they can’t catch up with it. “Come back, stone!” They chase it down the ice, and one tumbles over along the way.

Not every time was quite like that, though. Sometimes, we felt like real curlers. The stone slid by at just the right speed, the sweepers swept, and the stone landed in just the right spot. Then, the other team would come and knock the stone right out of the circle. Hey!

It was really fun, through. Sliding the stone was cool. It weighs around 40 lbs, so it is quite heavy. But once you get it going, it has really good momentum. It can even pull you along for a little bit if you fall over and don’t let go.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I must say that there was one area where I think I came out ahead of everyone. That was in the Falling Over division. Probably the goofiest was when I strode out on the ice to sweep. I said, “I’m not very good with the brooooooooo,” CRASH!

All in all, it was a great time. It was fun to try a new sport, especially with a bunch of other people who had also not tried it before. And the next time you see curling in the Winter Olympics or something, I hope you will remember that curling is NOT as easy as it looks!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Another snow adventure

I went on another train snow adventure. Yep, one of those 6:24 train ones. It actually happened the day before the one where I got the train video.

For this adventure, I explored the Tokumitsu stop. When I got off the train, I was surprised to see that I was at the entrance to a big road. But I thought that if I poked around a while, I would find some interesting stuff. Here are some things I found:
When I got back to Wakkanai, I went to Banka (one of my favorite cafes) for the breakfast set. What a great way to end the morning!
An hour later, I went out to the Snowland with three friends.

Winter is really fun, if you have a plan!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wakkanai local foods

Lately, my friend and I have been eating a lot of food at local restaurants. I’m going to be broke soon, but it will be worth it. Please feel free to send care packages.
One thing we wanted to eat was shijimi ramen – ramen with a kind of freshwater clam. We went to the restaurant that is famous for shijimi ramen on Thursday night.
It was the best ramen I have ever eaten. I know that sounds funny, but ramen in Japan is totally different from the dried 25 cent packs that students eat. Here it is:
Perhaps you’d like to see it closer:

The broth was buttery and delicious. Ramen selfie!
While we were eating, we picked up a magazine that highlighted local foods around Hokkaido. We found the shop where we were in there. Here is a picture of shijimi ramen with a picture of shijimi ramen.
On the cover of the magazine was a picture that made me instantly drool. I am a cheese fiend.
We looked it up, just to see what lucky town got to have such a beautiful cheesy dish.
As you may have guessed, the restaurant was a Wakkanai restaurant. But, we were shocked. It was immediately determined that this dish needed to be eaten post-haste.
The next day, we went to Dino’s, home of the cheesy dish, before going to the gym. Don’t ask. The cheesy dish is actually called a sloppy joe. And it is incredibly huge. I could only eat half. But, it is not a sloppy joe as we know it. This one is a giant bun with a giant hamburger patty in the middle. Tomato sauce is on top, and the whole thing is smothered in cheese.
Dino’s is also famous for the American Army burger. I think it got its name because one can feed the entire army. Here’s one more close up of the sloppy joe.
I’m glad that I tried it, but I am completely content to not eat it again! Thankfully, I didn’t sink in the pool class at the gym (maybe because the water is only waist deep).

Other things on Flower Island

Besides the gorgeous Wednesday sunrise on Rebun, there were a ton of other fun things as well.

On Tuesday morning, the morning light was just lovely. Although I was a bit sleepy and stressed when I got in the taxi, I really enjoyed looking at the morning. It’s SOOOO nice to not have to leave in the dark anymore. Also had a nice conversation with the taxi driver. It was 99% in Japanese, but he tossed a few random English words in for fun.

Here’s the pretty light:


It was really pretty during boarding as well. But the picture came out so weird!


Looks like we are taking luggage to heaven or something.

Anyway, the ferry ride to Rebun was so smooth. I was grateful. So grateful! More grateful than mere words can express.

Here we are, driving into Rebun.


After arriving at the terminal, I met a German visitor who was traveling to see Rebun. He had some questions, and through a group effort, we were able to help him out.

Then it was off to school, where I was parked in an empty classroom. My usual spot was being used for something else.


I had written a story for one of the classes, but I wanted to make a few changes. I worked on it before class. When I took my USB to print, I discovered that only half of the changes had saved.

I was not thrilled at this development. I had one more class period, so I returned to my computer and blazed through retyping the changes. When I went to print again, the teacher’s computer (hooked to the printer) froze. Argh!

Finally, it came back. And we saw this.


My beautiful story has been changed to RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, I thought!

I scrolled down for 15 pages and…

There was my story! I was so thankful to God that the story had not somehow become all Rs. But then I just started giggling. The whole thing had just been ridiculous, and the RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR was enough to push me over the line into gales of giggles.

The work happened here:


The giggles happened here, behind the 3rd window or so


The first day’s reading went pretty well. I was grateful, considering that RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR is pretty hard to divide into lines. And how do you convey any character besides a pirate or a lawnmower.

After classes, I headed off on my long bus ride south to town.


There was a neat cloud right in front of Rishiri. And a ferry leaving! Now, we are all marooned on the island. It’s a strange feeling when the last ferry leaves for the night.


It’s a long climb to Pension Uni. They would have met me down at ground level, but I thought the walk would be nice. I always forget how steep the climb is, though. I got two phone calls along the way (organizing dinner), and I enjoyed the break.


Pension Uni is so cute, isn’t it! My room was the 2nd floor, 2nd window.

We have to take off our shoes when we come inside. Guess which pair of boots is mine!




Places to stay here often have hot water waiting for you when you check in. I love that!

Later that evening, I got together with a group of people for dinner. It was a very international dinner. IMG_1095

We ate yakiniku! Why is it so fun to grill your own meat in a restaurant?

The next morning, after the gorgeous sunrise (see last post), it was my favorite time of the day at Pension Uni. Breakfast time! I love breakfast there. The food is yummy. The dining room is lovely. The coffee is terrific!


Then, it was back to school. Look at this funny mug I use there. It is covered in bad sheep puns. I love it.IMG_1100

Classes were pretty fun. The students understood the story really well! I was so glad, because I included some subtle hints in there. We all did a read through of the story, and it sounded pretty cool to hear everyone saying their lines. Every year, one of the scariest parts of making the story is balancing the lines so everyone has plenty of lines and good stuff.

Finally, it was time to head home.


The way home was beautiful!