Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy new year!

Kochi Prefecture Susaki

I arrived quite a bit before sunrise and had a lovely warm nap first
230ish km...

Sunset on 2010


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kii/Shikoku day 2

Oops should have taken that weather forecast more seriously. Koyasan snowed on me with only 2 km to the top! (don't worry, i was plenty warm in my winter gear in the picture) Another day for that mountain ... Cable car and much public transportation followed.
Currently on a ferry one of the roadsides heaters I've ever felt in japan to Tokushima and a warm hotel room

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kii/Shikoku day 1

As I headed to the highest pass of the trip, sun setting and thinking the snow covered mountains were a lot like beautiful women with expensive colorful drinks in impossible cocktail dresses. I told myself I wasn't intimidated. It was a lie.

Day 0

笑顔の宿 民宿 丸栄, 〒441-3624 愛知県田原市伊良湖町宮下2822-23

Strongest headwind of my life. Hostel owner tells me it is the breath of god


Monday, December 27, 2010

Kii/Shikoku tour Day -1

I may get rained on, or snowed on

I may get a flat tire
I may get lost
I may hit a spot of frost or moss and slip and fall again
I may have to continue on despite being bruised or scraped or tired
I may have to eat the same boring curry over and over because I can't find good food without wheat in it
I may spend too much money
I may have a wicked head wind
I may question if this was all a good plan after all
I will likely get chapped lips and nose
I will likely shiver now and then
I will may swear into a headwind or a climb at the end of the day
I will probably get sore and tired muscles
I will probably want more sleep
I will probably want more food

These things may happen. I am totally ok with them. I'm choosing something that isn't supposed to be easy. I'm making a deal with myself to not complain about the cold or really, anything. I choosing to be grateful (as best I can). These things are, mostly, part of the plan. This isn't supposed to be easy; this is supposed to be kind of a pilgrimage. Though a pilgrimage to what or for what, I guess I'm not really sure.

I hope the elements and the kilometers, new and beautiful mountains and prefectures in Japan, will ground me somehow. Will bring clarity.

What I worry about most is not the weather or the potential mechanical problems. I most fear the loneliness. Don't get me wrong. I love traveling alone and I would miss the freedom of it if I did travel with others, but like a lot of this year, I've struggled to embrace being alone. I used to be quite happy living alone, loving the silence and the ease of going at my own pace. But after the year in South America with all the hostels and bunk beds and the tribe of El Parque volunteers... I've changed.

That said, though I am craving more social interaction in my life than I can fit into nonworking hours (working hours being warm and professional but not exactly friendly), I still believe in the value of holding yourself in a quiet space. I believe that clarity comes from not distracting yourself. I believe that whatever lessons I am learning with will grow and surface if I give myself that space.

And I believe that checking facebook and email constantly dilutes the experience.

And so, for the time I am traveling, I am going mostly media blackout. I play with my cellphone, checking crack-book, email, blogs far too much. I feel almost addicted to it. I miss those long south American bus rides that went on for days with nothing to do except doze and look out the window. Stuff happens in your head when you don't fill it with flashing lights. That said, if I do cave and check my email, I will most certainly appreciate any letters...

I will let people know that I am still alive and I hope to find some time to write all about it when I get back.

A poem that sums it up rather nicely

And finally, a Race Across America cyclist, in an interview explained why he trained so hard and did such crazy races. He says this
I learn how to beat the dark side of me, if you do that and then you race in yourself you are proud of yourself and that inspires me. For me, that's it.

And so the adventures continue. Keep my warm in your thoughts

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 holidays

It has been a lovely holiday season so far. Despite working 24th-28th, I had the fantastic day off on the 23rd, the emperor's birthday, and led a bike ride out in the nearby mountains. In santa regalia, no less. My friend took some great pictures here. This is my favorite with Fuji in the background.

It has been a great year cycling, getting to know the roads, finding my place in the community, feeling strength build in my body. I'm hoping for a faster and awesome 2011. I will be filling my upcoming holiday with a bike tour. As usual.

I tried to take video with my iPhone during my summer tour and put it together... but the project kind of failed. Here are the mediocre results. Don't let it give you a headache (sorry...)

I still have two more days of work before my winter break of about a week, which, predictably, will be a cycling tour. I tried to find some buddies but other people have families and/or prefer to celebrate the New Year more traditionally, inside with booze. I plan to bike through the night into the sunrise.

This time I will not be camping. (brr!) and have hotel/hostel/couchsurfing/bed and breakfast reservations for every night. I'm also planning to go in a media blackout BUT posting just location and (if I can do it easily) one picture at night, so that people know that I'm still alive. (that's what the 'test' was about)

I'll write more later but must get to organizing!

the adventures sure do continue...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a faraway tune

I have not tangoed for well over a year. I spend my Fridays in yoga class, usually, and Saturday nights often happily collapsing after spending the day in the mountains on my bike. In some ways, it is not dissimilar to the twists and turns of violins, bandoneons and steps lead by strangers. The mountains lead me in crazy dances around tight corners, dodging fallen stone, skimming across little bridges. Plaintive tango music finds its way into my morning commutes and late night walks through the city. I work far too much, though I enjoy much of it. I meet friends after work for a little dinner or a drink a few times a week. This is my city mouse life. Caught in the occasional cocktail conversation.

I’m doing acupuncture. I begin my 530am mornings with yoga in the dark. Predawn sun salutations. A year ago, tangoing in Eugene, playing cards with friends, moving from one friend’s couch or spare room to the next, all my clothes worn to pieces and faded from the dust of the road, morphing into far too much time ironing my one good white shirt and interview after interview… it seems awfully far away. It was only a short year.

This time last year I was caught in an incredible pull to try to get back to Bolivia and the park. Much like vertigo –or that desire to fall—, I longed to plunge into those simple and intense days. And there was a boy in the plan, wrapped in imagination… there so often is.

When I think about choices, or perhaps the choice-less idea of fate, I see it much like the potential energy diagrams of chemical reactions. You can take the girl out of the science lab but you can’t take the science out of her explanations about life… So, in the various paths we can choose there are many configurations, possibilities. Some are more stable than others. Some you can settle into easily. In order to move from one stable configuration to another we must first get the energy to get over a hill, of sorts. Once on top of the hill we can go many ways, rolling down to a new stable configuration.

So, this time last year, I see myself, a marble trembling on top of a very smooth hill. Poised between signing a contract for what looked like my dream job, plunging back into the jungle, helping my best friend with her new baby, … and the list goes on.
So many ways for that marble to roll.
Listening for the wind.
Unsure of where to slide down.
And because of a kind word here and a slow response to an email there. A weather forecast. A small coincidence. The sunlight through the window of my cold apartment… a bunch of very small things, really, and the choices were made.

I didn’t spend the last of my money on a three month return to the jungle. I paid off my credit card and biked to work through freezing temperatures, slowly regaining my cycling form, slowly rebuilding my Tokyo poise. Some part of me knows that if I left for a 3 month jungle return, I would have never returned to Tokyo. Just as if I had come back to the states this summer, I don’t think I could have returned to Tokyo. The gravity sink of the jungle, or anywhere that feels like home, is incredibly strong. I’m still here, in Tokyo, but the tug here and there never really gives up. I’m happy here but it’s nice to know there are many other directions I could roll.

And so I glide through my Tokyo days. I will likely be offered a new contract by the end of the year and I will likely accept it. Do you teach English? no. I teach Chemistry and Math.

At first I fought so hard to make sure all the English teachers knew that I felt we were still in the same boat, that I respected them and their work as much I respect my own. But as the terms progress and I see the curriculum I’ve built from scratch. The short term and long term learning goals, the tests, the assessments, the report card comments, the bigger picture, I know that teaching English lessons in eikaiwa or as an ALT is very very different. A single lesson at a time is easy. No oversight of your students’ progress is easy. That’s fun stuff. This is also fun stuff but it’s a labor of love sometimes. All teachers must feel that way. This year has been an incredible learning process. I feel like the time and energy invested in students and classes has –at least most days—has paid off. And that, more than anything keeps me, marble blown by winds, happy to stay where I am, learning, challenged, a little longer. I am learning so much.

Though I am happy in my current energy sink, gravity hole, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dear Northwest friends and that close-knit group of dancers. I truly don’t miss the rain and the dark, but I do miss the people. And I miss the beautiful tango music pouring out little Oregon dance halls and the graffiti-ed Buenos Aires past-their-prime buildings. summer night milongas and 2am frenet and coke. speaking Spanish and waking up late.

This is a year of mornings. Possibly the first year of mornings since I was 18? I’m not a morning person. Getting up early has been a serious adjustment. I wake up and see the sun rise as I, and a million other commuters, descend upon the caffeinated sleep deprived city.

I walk 10 minutes through a beautiful park with the leaves slowly moving from green to yellow to browns and reds. from the sky to the ground. feet crackling in the dry leaves as the crows. Today was the first day that felt like winter. Gray sky and bare branches reaching into the lazy sunrise. Puddles and damp leaves. Scarves and gloves.

What a fascinating journey.

and the adventures continue…