Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prepping the Tohoku Adventure... Day -1

I'm packing and it's not even the night before. weird.

What I'm taking (as a habit, I write down as I pack so I don't have to unpack to see what I put in... that sucks)

washing clothes kit--small portions of powder detergent, hanger clips, sink plug
washing self kit-- half a bar of soap, tiny bottle of shampoo, face soap, razor, nail clippers, tooth brush, Q-tips, scissors

that's right scissors. I plan to hack my hair off as I spontaneously see fit. but be sure to get back to Tokyo in time to have someone else fix it before I have to work again.

fixing self kit- needle and thread, athletic tape, sunblock, bug spray (12% deet), anti itch cream, pain killers, tweezers, "chunDy aftersun Repair Lotion"-- I think it's aloe, bandaides, chapstick.

other useful things: notebook, compass, safty pins, alarm clock, geeky band to keep my glasses from falling off my face, pen, camera cable, batteries

fixing bike kit
multi tool
red electrical tape
bungee cords
parts "left over" because I'm only attaching my pannier rack on three points, rather than the intended four... the brakes are in the way on the other point... but seems solid

bike shorts
2 sports bras
3 shirts
2 pajama/other pants

every peice of clothing had to pass the "can I ride in it? yes." "can I sleep in it? yes." test. no points awarded for style. well, I award myself tons of point for the yellow red theme... but that's just me.
(things actually in the bag-- some aren't because I will wear them, they are in the wash... etc.)
5 pairs of underwear
2 short sleeved T shirts
1 long sleeved T shirt
1 sports bra


Things I'm not happy about: I will probably get rained on.
Things I am happy about: It's not going to be 90+ degrees up north.
My North Fake jacket I bought in China... I seem to have successfully water proofed it, as tested in my shower today.

Other things that should not be forgotten
camera. I'm taking my old small point and shoot. Yes, it's not as good. But I won't worry about it.
helmet. yes yes yes
lights, attached to the bike and a 400 candle strong head light. AND a head light that I wear on my head. I can attach it to my helmet with red electic tape. cool.
umm. socks.
lock. for sure.

I really should go to bed. I do have to work tomorrow. suck.

but finally, I would like to say that Ortlieb bags (recommended by the fabulous couchsurfing community) do indeed rock. everytime I was like, "man, I need it do this other thing... how am I going to gerryrig that... I'd look at the dead easy instructions and low and behold, they thought of that. almost took all the fun out of it. except how can I not forgive canary yellow. woo hoo!

here's what the sweeeeeeet ride looks like. oh yea, I feel like I rock.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

biking it

Disney Land is in the background.

I love my ride before and after work. Other than the current 90+ degree heat. I don't love that.
For training for my trip, and general sanity too, I've been doing 30 miles a day on this route into Tokyo at least a few times a week. I would do it everyday but there is only so much time and energy in a day. and sanity. there's definitely a limit on sanity too.
Unfortunately, the couch is no more. It encouraged too much relaxation, perhaps. Though the path was getting pretty litter strewn there too. It was great when it was populated with highschoolers smoking cigarettes and rebelling.

I love the river bike paths here. So much beauty in this world.

the adventures continue...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Recently, we've been getting along...

Oh, Tokyo, I know we have our ups and downs and sometimes I hate you and maybe visa versa, but I'd like to state for the record, recently we've been hitting it off pretty well.

Living abroad definitely has it's ups and downs but now, other than work being extremely stressful lately, I've been feeling pretty good.

The BIG PLAN is this, these days, though I do change my plans as often as my underwear (which is twice a day in this heat....) I quit in December. I move back to the states in December....
3 and a half years for this company will have been a damn fine run but it's time to move on.
but then again, these days, I'm feeling like I never want to leave.
After I come back in December I'll be around for a month or so catch up with people and then I plan to head off to Argentina. Why? Because I've wanted to for a long time. And that seems like a good enough reason to me. And I want to put Japan and Asia in perspective. And I hope to get my CELTA down there (Certificate for English Language Teaching to Adults).
I'll be back in Oregon for Spring/Summer. And then, if things go well, I'll go to grad school to get an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The program I love the most is in either New York or Tokyo.
The program I'm most interested in has campuses in Tokyo and New York. Both programs expect their students to work almost full time so any lesson observations are of your actual lessons-- not mock lessons. Both prepare teachers--not academics. Classes are on the weekends or evenings and the program takes two years.
So, I'll apply to both and see what happens but recently I've been feeling that though I'm leaving in December. I may be back soon.
It's a strange and beautiful place here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I've become a jock.

Who knew? I haven't been a wannabe jock in a long time and yet, recently, I've kinda become one. But don't worry, that geeky scientist, BattleStarGalactica loving, SCAthian is still in there somewhere.

So, I've been riding about a hundred miles a week for the last month or so and then did 8 days in a row of 30+ miles a day (plus work) and then took two days off (for drinking obligations) and decided to do a ride with these people.

Map of the ride

Meet the "Tokyo Cycling Club." Words like 'hard core' are fitting for this group. None-the-less, they were very nice to me.

Of the 16 or so riders for the day, there was one other woman. She was extra nice. She, however, was very much not slow. In the Fuji International Hill Climb Race she was third of all women. (11.4km long and about 1200m difference of altitude (average gradient over 10% and maximum of 22%) Sheesh.
I was faster than the guy on the right.
The ride ended at a brewery. Sweet. Friends were made.
I was SOOO happy and feeling like a rockstar at the end of it. Now I'm all cocky.... jock-tastic.

the adventures continue...

(also, I didn't take any of these pictures. thanks to shinnobu and sora)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HuaShan- China

Near Xian is one of China's five most sacred mountains. Therefore, we had to climb it. at night, to see the sunrise. A number of people from the hostel were intersested in joining our unplanned plans and we headed out.
Carrie came prepared with extra water for the hike.
Leo (most left) looks like a totally prepared boyscout but actually nearly every peice of his equipment failed on the way to the top.

Carrie studies the map which warns us it's a dangerous climb. At every tourist stop in China they try to sell you insurance.

The hike up was long, steep, and thousands and thousands of stairs.

It was also some of the most beautiful stars I've seen in a long time. (oh tokyo haze....)
It was also full of Chinese tourists carrying on at the top of their lungs. Like a bunch of frat boys.

The summit was crowded as we all shivered waiting for the sunrise. The sunrise was half and hour "late" because not only did it have to clear the mountains but also the smog from the coal burning industry in the area.

Regardless, it was beautiful.

At the top you could rent soviet style green down jackets. It was cold!

The climb is popular for newly weds, apparently, and it's customary to engrave your names on a lock and lock it up on the mountain as a symbol of never ending love.

Oh the stairs.... My legs hurt so bad.

The adventures continue...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Narita Gion Festival

When our plans to climb Fuji on July 6th fell through, we headed to a local festival. I spent most of the time taking pictures of the people, specifically, other people's children. They seemed to think it was cute.

Unfortunately, I'm way too lazy to upload them twice on my POS computer (sorry baby, I didn't say that... please don't crash) ... you get the picture

The rest are here
or here if the link doesn't work:

I did tweak the colors a bit because most of them were night shots. I feel I over did it on one. What do you lovely folks think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Zen-est Zombie

That's what I've been feeling like this week. Between my new busier schedule at work and biking at least 30 miles a day for the last 8 days straight... I've become a zombie. But don't worry about your man/woman flesh. I'm almost too tired to eat. Considering the amount of exercise I'm getting, that's not really a good thing.

What's wrong with your schedule?

Well, we used to have 3 teachers doing the job and now we only have two. Then I got a private student coming 3 times a week.

Total classes 27
Total kid classes 22
Total pre-school classes (including the private student who is only 2yrs 8months) 14.

Now, I love love love kids. And many of my individual kids I love so much I want to steal them. So, that's all good. I could talk about kids and blog about kids constantly... but I'll spare you.

I love them, but kids classes are a lot of energy.

but look at the super cute, albeit misguided, gift one of my 2nd graders gave me. It was followed by a huge hug and then an insistent, "magic! magic!" ... if only I could do more magic.

I'm sure if she remembered how to spell my name she would have written that instead of "KKK" .... I figure.

Now, my longer days look like this
alarm goes off at 8. I pull myself out of bed 8:30
ideally, I leave my apartment by 9:30, though sometimes I don't manage till 10
when I get to work I change my clothes. It's hot now, feeling like over 90 everyday. I strip buck naked in the shopping center bathroom, give my self a wet wipes wipedown and start teaching at 12. When I finish teaching at 9, I get home 10:30 or later.
I shoot to go to bed by 11:30 but that doesn't always happen.

zen zen zombie.

all the exercise is making me super calm. this is a good quality for a kids teacher.
it's also making me a little brain dead. so I'm not riding my bike today and maybe not tomorrow before I kill myself trying to keep up with the Tokyo Cycling Club on one of their rides on Sunday.

Anyways, it's all great 'training' for my Tohoku adventure that starts on Aug 1st and I feel totally unprepared for.

View Larger Map

Basically, I'll take a night bus up to Aomori (note, no reservations made yet nor have I check that I can actually take my bike (albeit taken apart and in a bike bag) on the bus... i.e. not prepared) and cycle up around the peninsula and then down the Eastern coast along rt. 45 etc.

How far am I going?
Well, I have to work on Aug 13th so I should be back for that. How far depends on how much I cycle and what goes wrong. Knock on wood for me. I'm hoping to do 60 miles or more a day.

Isn't this all expensive?
Well, considering that I haven't upgraded anything on my bike in the 5 years I've had it... kind of. But it's been about time.

I did get totally cool shoes.
My old petals were basket style.

I have now finally upgraded to clip in. Actually, only one side of the pedal is clip-in and the other is flat so I can petal with any sort of shoes/sandals I like. The shoes are "spd" shoes, which means they have tread and only kinda suck for walking. Overall, they seem really versatile and make me go faster with less effort.

My old tires looked like this- frayed and unhappy. So, I bought new canary yellow tires. They are hideous and lovely all at once. The pedestrians are much quicker to get out of my way. I'll try to put up a picture by the end of the day.

So, that's most of that... now I'm off to teach the munchkins.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A great wall:Xi'an

no, not THE great wall. but still pretty darn neat in my opinion. Xi'an still has most of it's city wall intact and it's quite nice to rent a bike and circle the city. Or like Joe and I, just walk.

It was bloody hot that day. Nice, but hot.

1/125, F8.0,ISO 100

Walking along the wall at sunset was fantastically beautiful.

1/90, F5.6, ISO 100

1/4sec, F5.6, ISO 1600

I wanted this to be the perfect picture. It was so beautiful with the hot dry desert air that had just cooled from a 90degree day to something quite pleasant. The wind was in the flags and the lights along the wall were glowing.

Knowing what I know now I would have set up the camera so that I wasn't touching it, set a long exposure, low ISO and used the 2 sec wait. Next time....