Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fukuoka Auto Show

This weekend I went to the Fukuoka Auto Show with some friends. I got to sit on the most powerful motorcycle in the world (Kawasaki ZX-14) and in an army vehicle of some kind. It was pretty much like any other auto show I've been to, just a little smaller and more cramped. There was a small room showcasing alternative fuel powered vehicles, which was pretty interesting. I saw a scooter made by this college team that runs on ethanol and/or old beer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ouch! Snowboarding.

Last weekend I went on a road trip to a skiing spot in Shimane prefecture (north of Hiroshima). To say the least, it hurt a lot. But, it was really really fun and I can't wait to do it again.

We left Nagasaki around midnight on Friday and drove for 6 hours.  We took an hour nap in the parking lot waiting for the rental shop to open and then dove in.  To our disappointment we happened to choose Family Day and Ladies' Day, so there were a lot of people there, namely a lot of families. On the plus side, I got a free soft drink for being a lady.

It took me awhile to get the hang of snowboarding. I started out learning with my friend, but I decided to go out on my own for awhile and just practiced over and over and finally I started getting it. By the end of the first day I had improved a lot.  However, this process did not come painlessly. In fact, by the end of the day I had a very sore butt, sore knees and a swollen hand from all the falling and sliding I'd done. But the pain was worth it and I was excited to get on the slopes again the next day. 

The weather the next day was not quite as pleasant, although there were far fewer people. It was very foggy, snowy and cold, so I was a little hesitant and didn't really like going down the hill without being able to see much, so I wasn't too eager to try many new things. I did get a little better and was much more comfortable. However after a few hard falls (since I was going faster now, I was falling faster, which hurts more!) on the same spot on my hip and bum, I decided I needed to take it a little easy.

It was so much fun! There are spots closer to Nagasaki, but I hear they aren't as good. So we'll see when I get to go again.

On another note, we have been getting quite a bit of snow in Omura lately. Today, it snowed for a good few hours and even stuck to the ground for a bit. The snowflakes were huge! It was fun to  play in it with my elementary school kids, but boy was it cold! I'm not a fan of being able to see my breath in the hallway! I haven't left my house with less than 5 layers (3 being jackets!) in a long time. I don't understand how some of my students can run around in shorts and a thin a jacket, they're crazy!

Usually the snow doesn't stick for long, but a few years ago they had about 6 inches, so maybe we'll get some of that this year too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Horses, Yards and Mayonnaise

As you know, I spent 18 wonderful days in the US over the holidays. Seeing that I was with most of you for the majority of my time there, I am not going to recount it.

I did, however, have to tell some 500 odd students about it. I can't say it was really an exciting vacation, not to say it wasn't fun. But really, sitting at home with my family watching three seasons of the IT Crowd is not exactly something my students want to hear about.  While preparing my lesson about my vacation, I was saved by my foresight of taking pictures of pretty normal things in America that I thought might interest or even blow-the-minds-of my students. And blow their minds I did.

While I have told them all that we keep a horse (now horses), it was probably a year and a half ago that they heard it, so they all forgot. In preparation of the first photo, I asked them if they remembered what kind of pets we had, mentioning that two are "very big animals". They most often shouted out "lion," "elephant," and for some reason, "snake." So, as with the response I got the first time around, seeing this photo of me riding Festus made jaws drop and kids start yelling "okanemochi" (rich person).

I didn't expect to get quite the explosive reaction as I did for the next jaw-dropper. I pulled out a picture of this play-set that was in someone's backyard in Ann Arbor. My students spend a lot of time at school and at parks; they don't have yards to play in, so when it's time to play outside it's on the dirt "field" and the jungle gym at school. Every time I showed this picture I had to restate several times that this was in fact not in a park, but in someone's yard. They couldn't believe it and again the "okanemochi"'s rang out.

The funniest picture for me to show was this picture of the mayonnaise selection at Hiller's. Mayonnaise in Japan is not really like the stuff at home. With only a single producer (maybe?), Kewpi (read Q-P),  it comes in a squeeze bottle, more like ketchup, it's a little more sour and it's used as anything from a salad dressing to a pizza topping. I asked my students to raise their hand if they liked mayonnaise and surprisingly usually only a handful would, but, regardless, it's a national staple. So then I dropped the bomb shell. I'd point to every row and repeat "mayonnaise". In unison the entire class (and often times the teachers) would exclaim, in the oh so Japanese way, "eeeeeeeeeh?!" I got similar, but not quite as impressive reactions for the Oreo selection and the bread aisle.

It's funny how such simple things in one culture is mind-boggling in another.

I also showed them one dollar bills. To my surprise, kids as young as 4th grade would start spewing the current exchange rate and talking about Freemasons (the latter of which I can only postulate that they learned from the movie National Treasure).  I still have no idea why so many of them knew the exchange rate.