Sunday, December 25, 2011

Week 52

Well, here it is, the last post of 2011.

Last week kicked off with two days of overtime on Tuesday and Wednesday. The extra money will be nice next month but doing "the Christmas kids lesson" umpteen times last week was a little trying.

I had a nice break Friday for the Emperor's Birthday. My girlfriend and I decided to take a short road trip over to Awaji-shima (an island on the other side of Osaka bay.) In order to make the most of our day we set out at 8:00am for the two hour drive to the south side of the island. The trip there was uneventful once we figured out the car-navi software was out of date and unreliable. It got us lost in Osaka trying to get on the express way. In South Awaji city we boarded a boat to go see the famous Naruto whirlpools. My girlfriend did some research beforehand and we arrived just as the tides were changing and the whirlpools were spinning at their maximum. By chance I brought some popcorn as a snack and my girlfriend ended up having more fun feeding the seagulls than seeing the whirlpools. (She hates pidgeons but loves seagulls, go figure.) After an hour cruise we got back in the car and drove to Naruto island (technically in Tokushima, while Awaji is technically in Hyogo prefecture.) We stopped for a lunch of tai (sea bream) on rice and walked around the island a bit. Later we got back in the car and drove back to Awaji. For the next little while we drove around and stopped at a small fish market to buy some souvenirs (including onion dressing, as Awaji onions are somewhat famous.)  This was followed by another drive around before finding one of Awaji's seven major temples. After the temple we made our way to a local hotspring and relaxed our bodies from the day's long drive. It was hard to get back in the car after the comfort of a hot bath and even harder to stay awake and make conversation in a second language all the way home. My girlfriend was kind enough to drop me off at my house before taking her brother's car back to her parent's house.

Saturday was a "buffer day" which meant no kids classes but a full compliment of adult students. I rewarded myself after work by stopping at my favorite burrito place on the way home.

Yesterday (Sunday, Christmas) I woke up and opened presents from home (which had arrived over the course of December, slowly filling the space under my imaginary Christmas tree.) I then proceeded to sit infront of the heater and do nothing but watch movies all day. In the evening my girlfriend stopped by on the way home from her parent's house and we exchanged presents. She hand-knit my a wonderful 2 meter long scarf (I got her a new laptop to replace her old broken computer.) We ate "Christmas parfaits" while watching old Japanese cartoons together. She took an early cab home as she had to work today.

I'd say that bout does it for this year but really there's another week left. Oh well, I'll just add that stuff to next week's post. See you in 2012.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 51

A really fun week last week. I went on a trip, I had a party, and I played some games with friends.

Last Tuesday I woke up at a reasonable hour, moseyed over to the station area, and had some breakfast before meeting a friend and hopping on an express train  to Nagoya. Two hours later we disembarked and walked across the street from Nagoya station to the Midland Square building (the tallest in Nagoya) and took a walk around the observation deck. Having had our fill of heights we took the subway over to Nagoya's big shopping district (Sakae). We were a little baffled by the station sign at out destination as it read; "Exits 1-12 this way, Exits 2~11 that way." Evidently their sign maker didn't get that a dash does not act as a slash ("/"). After puzzling our way out of the labyrinth of tunnels we bee-lined it to a really tasty Mexican restaurant (that we'd both been to before.) After a filling lunch we shopped around for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we had a few "street beers" while waiting for the venue to open. When it did open we met some more friends inside and waited for our favorite band to take the stage. I guess I really have become a bit of a groupie if I'm hopping on trains and heading 100miles just to see "The 50 Kaitenz" play. The band played a pretty good set and turned the stage over to another band (Kinoko Hotel) that were pretty good too. After the show our little group of friends all went out for the customary post-show meal. Once thoroughly fed and watered some of the friends we'd met through the band drove us out to their house on the outskirts of town and let us crash on their floor.

Wednesday morning everyone got a lazy start and eventually we all piled back in the car to take one of our friends back to the station so she could get to work that afternoon. The rest of us (who all had the day off) continued on to see Nagoya castle. The castle was more-or-less as I saw it the last time but it was nice to go through with other people this time. While we were climbing the main tower there was a decently sized earthquake a few prefectures over that shook things up. There were some none-too-silent thanks rased that we were in a reconstructed castle (not the original structure.) All castled out we returned to the Mexican place again for lunch (no, it's not that mind-blowingly good, but it's hard to get a good taco in Osaka [burritos are another story however]) Sated, we headed for the station and trained back to Osaka.

Saturday after work I stuck around for the school Christmas party. It was a fairly standard party: eat, drink, talk, play bingo and exchange "secret Santa" gifts, catch the last train home.

Last (Sunday) night some of the guys came over and we played board games all evening. It's been a while since we've gotten together and I think everyone had a good time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 50

It's hard to believe that this year's almost over. Time sure flies when you're having fun.

Okay, two weeks ago Tuesday I had a relaxing laundry/cleaning day followed by a relaxing evening at home with my girlfriend, the TV, and a pizza. Wednesday I took a long bike ride around Osaka and got most of my Christmas shopping done as well.

After most of a regular work week passed I had a nice break in my routine last Sunday, going out to one of my Japanese friends' houses for a dinner party. This particular circle of friends is really into local Japanese rock and it's been a while since I've seen everyone so it was nice to catch up.

Last Monday I was up and out of the house fairly early to go buy my girlfriend's Christmas present. (There's almost no chance she's reading this but just in-case that's all I'm going to say for now.) After shopping I dropped my purchase(s) at home and headed to work (completely forgetting about updating the blog.) At work I found out my long-time private student was taking his last lesson with me. Preparing his classes was always a lot of work but ultimately rewarding. I'll miss having class with him.

Last Tuesday I met some friends for lunch at a ramen shop in the North of town. This shop's specialty is a 1.5 kilo bowl of ramen with a garlic soup and topped with bean-sprouts and beef strips. If you finish it (at all, no time limit) you get to have your picture taken in a samurai helmet and be posted on the wall. If you fail you still get your picture taken but with a peasant wig and a fake arrow through the head. Needless to say I ended up having a light dinner with my girlfriend that evening and she kept her distance saying that I smelled like kimchi.

Last Wednesday was split between playing videogames and working of projects around the house. It's finally gotten cold here in Osaka with high temperatures in the 10's (50f-60f [yes, not so "Michigan" cold, but pretty "Japan" cold]). Long bike rides were out of the questions but I did end up making several short trips out. After a trip to the 100yen store I was able to complete my proto-type bowler hat-bag clip design. Now to patent it and make my millions.

Saturday after work I met my girlfriend and one of her friends afterwork and we had a "maki-zushi" (think California roll type sushi) at the friend's house. It was a really good time and the home-made sushi was quite delicious. Walking back to the station afterwords we noticed a lot of people staring up into the sky and realized that the lunar eclipse was happening.

Last night was supposed to be another "game-night" but since no-one showed up I put in some more work on my girlfriend's Christmas present (it was fine as it was, but is a lot nicer now, with some elbow grease put into it.)

From here on out the end of the year's gonna be pretty busy. I'm headed to Nagoya tomorrow to see my favorite band play. I've got another "school party" this Saturday. I'm pulling two days of overtime on my "weekend" next week ten we're into the holiday season. No rest for the wicked and all that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 49

Well as you've plainly seen I've missed my first full week this year. Gosh, I almost made it all the way without skipping. Oh, well. Just a few more posts this year then I can try again next year. (One of my New Years resolutions last year was to make a post a week for an entire year.) Expect my usual update on Monday to include news from the past two weeks.