Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Japanese Adventure VI

All right, trying this again . . . (If things are condensed, it is because I am frustrated at having to write this a second time, and I have a lot to put in. If you really want more detail and content, ASK and ye shall receive.)

Saturday 5/29
This was the day we took a trip to a hot spring resort on Mt. Asahidake. Four Americans, five Chinese, two Japanese, and two professors. We showed up at the train station and left by bus. Dan was hung over. He is my argument against heavy drinking. Seriously.

Unfortunately, it was raining. So, instead of ascending to the summit to see the sights, we hiked over to a waterfall. This was very beautiful; you can't see this kind of stuff in Illinois. However, when that was all said and done, we had to wait out our time at a rest stop until cabs picked us up and took us to our lodge. This was fine, but the arcade was weird. Games with cigarettes and beer in them right next to children's games. And, next to traditional children's video games, a video mah jong game that rewarded you with bikini-clad women and girls lifting their skirts. Yikes, Americans would have a heart attack if those ended up in a mall at home.

So, we ended up at the lodge. It smelled funny. The owner explained use to us, but it was in Japanese (surprise), so most of us let our minds wander to far away places. After settling down, we walked up the road to the visitor center to watch a "nature video." Essentially, it was flowers swaying in the breeze and gentle piano music . . . zzzzzz . . . Yeah, everyone slept. What was our professor thinking, scheduling that? After that, we walked up to the cable car station, but instead of going up the mountain like we had originally planned, we just bummed around the gift shop.

We pretty much just bummed until dinner after that. Played UNO with some of the other students. The Chinese students had never seen it before, so that was kinda fun. After a while, we finally started making dinner, and this was a big event. Everyone helped. We made some skillet dish whose name I cannot remember or pronounce properly, but it was good. Sadly, most ingredients for it are unavailable in the US. Alas.

After dinner, the guys were given their turn in the hot spring. It's a public bath, which means nakedness. Generally, naked Hal is very very shy, but I figured I may as well live for once in my life. Thankfully, all of us except for Dan wear glasses, so none of us could really see anything anyhow. This made it easier. And Dan was drunk, so he didn't matter anyhow. Ah, Dan, every charming. He constatly screamed out that he was so $#%&ing drunk. Good for you Dan, good for you.

I played cards with Mike after that. Tried witnessing to him. There's a lot of issues that he just doesn't want to think about. I hope God gives me another opportunity to share with him.

Sunday 5/30
Woke up early, but since there are no churches on the mountain, I walked around in the fog and enjoyed God's creation. It really is beautiful on the mountain. Came back and spent some time in the scriptures. Had breakfast with the others. Cleaned up the lodge. Left it MUCH cleaner than we found it. Took the bus back to Asahikawa.

Spent the afternoon resting. Met Fujiko's parents. They were nice, but didn't know much english, so we didn't have much to talk about. Went to Sugai to bowl with Mike. This was fun, but he's really anti-social, I could barely get him to talk the entire time. Oh well.

Monday 5/31
We were supposed to visit the high school this day, but the administration finally figured out that we aren't education majors. That was cancelled. The system works!

Our experience was replaced with a tour of a computer/mapping company after Japanese class. This was mostly interesting; I say mostly because after a while, one map looks just like another. The giant printers were cool, though, as were the special, 3D maps. And we were given free stuff for visiting. I'd say the school made a good choice on that one.

Tuesday 6/1
Okay, this day was weird. We had double sessions of Japanese lined up, but were given the option of only attending one, as one was indicated as "advanced", and the other "beginner". Which do you think I chose?

After class, we had "Flower Arrangement." This was just so strange. We show up, and there are more students in there than there are exchange students. Okay, fine, they're there to help. Well, they didn't really. None of them had done this before. Ooooookay, so the teacher will explain to us what to do . . . in Japanese. Okay, so now we're supposed to arrange flowers. How? I guess I'll just jam the flowers in, make it look kinda like what the picture on this sheet with all the Japanese writing says. And now everyone is applauding this and taking pictures. Oy.

I even asked the teacher what made a good/bad flower arrangement, and she just said that all of ours were good. Yikes. We finished after, maybe, half an hour. However, instead of leaving, they started the TEA CEREMONY. Yikes, why? This wasn't part of the plan. Then we sit around for a good 45 minutes in awkward, awkward conversation. The students asking us questions, us answering for them as best we could. No one ever said what we were supposed to be doing or what was on the schedule, so this was just bizarre and uncomfortable. To make matters worse, Dan changed one of Mike's answers for him because he didn't think anyone would know what Mike said, and Mike proceeds to call Dan things which I simply cannot repeat. Yeah . . . that helped matters.

I returned crabby and tired. After dinner, I managed to sneak the children out of my room (they just never leave me alone!) and fall asleep at 6:30. Wow. Unfortunately, I woke up at 8:30 and couldn't sleep again until about 10. Oh well.

Wednesday 6/2
We began the day with cooking class. This was interesting. We had four groups, and each made a different dish or two. This resulted, unfortunately, in way too much food. It was an interesting experience, but the end result was mixed. Most of the food wasn't very good (for example, the fish was VERY salty), and the largest part of the meal was tofu, and I really dislike tofu. Gross. At least the Japanese girls think I have good cooking skills.

The afternoon led to another "art history" class. This time, we watched an "artistic" movie. Dan liked it, but I found it to be just too strange. You could never tell what was happening, or when. "Labyrinth in the Field" was the title. Avoid it like the plague. Too strange, and too much gratuitous nudity/sex. I think my eyes must have leaped 3 feet from my head when a girl ripped her entire kimono off in one fell swoop and attempted to have her way with the main character. Yikes.

In the evening, I managed to skip a Hippo meeting to "study". I dodged the bullet on that one.

Thursday 6/3
Well, I forgot about class this morning and ended up there 10 minutes late. Oops. I did get to go bowling with one of the Japanese students in the afternoon. This was pretty fun, although I think she lied to me when she said she wasn't very good. She trounced me with a score of 150. Unfortunately, she wasn't too interested in discussing Christianity, but I guess you can't win them all.

This evening, though, I couldn't escape my fate any longer: I had to go to a Hippo meeting. This was thoroughly boring. Just like every other time. Thankfully, it didn't last forever. Fujiko took us for ice cream afterwards. She totally uses me as an excuse to indulge. Consequently, I shall return a much fatter man than I left.

Friday 6/4
Typical day to start: Morning Japanese class. In the afternoon, we learned to play koto, this traditional Japanese guitar/harp thingy. This was fun, but the little finger picks were too small, and I kept breaking the thumb picks. Mike didn't like it; I don't think music is his thing.

I returned home in the afternoon for a party at the apartment. Or so I thought. See, the building has this "party apartment" for residents to use. This is good; I wondered how the Hirabashis would fit people into their tiny apartment. Anyhow, the party was pretty boring. It was a few Hippo members, and since most only spoke a little english, we didn't have much to say. Mike showed up eventually, so I got to talk to him for a while. One of the Hippo moms did have fun dressing me up. You could say I was a "Kendo-Ken". Viewing of these pictures begins at $10 for negatives, $25 for photos.

Saturday 6/5
This was a full day. The morning was spent at an art museum (small, but worth is; they had a brand new exhibit by an artist who did nothing but nature scenes . . . sweet!). Had to leave early because Yuki wanted ice cream. Oy.

The afternoon was spent watching a marching band competition in the city. This was pretty neat. Most of the schools had no uniforms, though. T-shirts and jeans, mostly.

Okay, I have again run out of time. I would keep writing, but the days would not receive the justice they deserve (they already have been given too little), and I want you to actually understand what I've been up to, not just get the basic sketch. So, I shall update the rest later. Most likely, that will be after I return. So, pray for my safe return and anticipate some good stories and details when I return this weekend!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an experience! Just think of all the stories you have now, even if they weren't the most fun to live through! Can't wait to see pictures and all that good stuff. Take care!