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Mmm toast [27 Apr 2005|06:56pm]
I'm going to break my long silence by telling you all that I bought a new toaster oven. If you don't live in Japan, a toaster oven is a glorified toaster people have instead of an oven. My old one was pretty old and useless, and yesterday it finally gave up the ghost. As I'm only here a couple more months, and at least for some of that it'll be far too hot to think about cooking things, I was annoyed about the prospect of buying a new one, thinking it would be at least 8000yen (£40) for something mostly useless for anything but making toast.
But when I got to the shop I found not only were they a lot cheaper than I'd thought, starting from 2000yen (£10), but that the more expensive ones looked like they might actually cook stuff. So I'm all excited about the one I bought, because it actually has a temperature setting dial like a real oven! And it doesn't have gaping cracks which leak steam. And, it's "Champagne gold" coloured!

So, because I'm really excited about this but realise Ian or my Mum wouldn't take kindly to being woken up for me to rave about it, I thought I'd write this journal entry.

I expect now you're pleased I don't write more often.

Oh and Ian - I'm watching baseball!
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[17 Jan 2005|06:02pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]

This weekend I was ill and had a party. I suppose the two are normally the other way round, but anyway. I'm going to gloss over the part about feeling terrible and skip forward to Saturday morning when I finally felt better and remembered that I'd asked people to come to a party that evening. Because I hadn't checked e-mail for a few days I was a bit worried that no-one was coming but as it turned out everyone only just fit in my sitting room. We had mulled wine, which is another thing it turns out they don't have in North America, but many people were driving and stuck to drinking tea. dee_halo and Michelle turned up late and drunk so I had to rescue them from the depths of Kuroishi town centre where my inept directions had led them. Anyway I really enjoyed the party and it was great to see lots of people in my house for a change.

On Sunday dee_halo and I went shopping for snowboarding clothes after everyone had been telling us we needed to get on with it. Kayla came with us as our expert adviser, and we spent lots of money and avoided buying anything too yellow! I also bought a webcam but was disappointed to find that it doesn't work as the installation CD is only for Japanese operating systems.

And also the school term has restarted, so actual work will be beginning again from tomorrow.

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Adventures in snow [12 Jan 2005|07:32pm]
[ mood | snowy ]

The big news here is, big snow. No seriously, that's what they called it on the news. It's being snowing pretty solidly for a few days, and even the Aomori residents have been impressed by it.

Although it's generally been annoying, there was one nice snow related moment. I went to the Sakurano onsen in Hirosaki (in order to get out of my house which was freezing due to a power cut), which is a big onsen with lots of different pools. When I looked at the outside pool out of the window my first thought was, "oh they have seasonal backdrop." It wasn't until I went outside that I realised that it had a real mini garden with real snow, and there was snow falling into the onsen! Even better was that as it was afternoon/evening, the sky was dark blue rather than the sullen grey we had for most of the day. That's my favourite thing about onsen - being in a warm pool but also having the cold of outdoors.

And another shocking development is that I actually did some of the work I'm being paid for today and made a lesson plan!

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Christmas trip [27 Dec 2004|06:15pm]
[ mood | happy ]

Well here I am posting again after only 3ish days!

I had lots of fun, ate Christmas cake (the Japanese kind, which is a sponge cake with Christmas themed topping), and opened my presents. I got plenty of warm things from various people who are presumably worrying that I'm cold, and plenty of British food from my parents in exchange for the strange tentacle things I sent them. I think I got the better deal!

After a late start from Kuroishi on Christmas eve we arrived in Morioka for a late lunch of one of the local specialties, Jya Jya Men. This was noodles with miso paste on top which you had to mix in, and was a little strange but nice. We window shopped in the afternoon, and then tried pachinko before going out in the evening. Pachinko was odd, I can't say I enjoyed it much, mainly because I felt the most stared at since coming to Japan, which is saying something. The bar we went to next was really great though - oishii and cheap cocktails, plus bonus fondue. Not in the cocktails of course, that would be silly. After that we went on to an Irish pub we had noticed on the way. This was a lot more expensive but also oishii - I had Guinness and some kind of lambic blackcurrant beer. Also while we were there a guy came in and started to play Christmas carols on a keyboard. He had a friend with him in a reindeer costume who swayed vaguely to the music but otherwise did nothing at all. Anyway, our group of foreigners got into singing along to the carols thus providing lots of entertainment for the whole bar.
Then we went back to the hotel and drank more. I don't remember this part so well, but it involved party poppers.

After opening our presents and eating cake we set off for Sendai. I found out that Americans don't have mince pies. I nearly bought a very expensive coat. That was Sendai.

Sendai also boasted lots of Engrish.

In a sock shop: We care about your socks life!

In a karaoke place: Good looking people
walking around in their clothes
for free.
It was the only reason I came.

In our hotel, rather scarily: ESCAPE TRAP

On my T-shirt: That for which you are order.
And on the back: Presumptive elegant
But I bought it in Hirosaki so it probably doesn't count.

We made a brief stop at Morioka on the way back, to try their other speciality, wonko soba. This is very small bowls of soba with various trimmings. When you have eaten one bowl (which is about 2 mouthfuls), you get another one. The point is to see how many you can eat. The restaurant we did this at was very traditional and Japanese style, and we got a huge room to ourselves after our super gaijin powers scared away some businessmen who were there when we arrived. However the waitress was unimpressed at our rather pathetic soba consumption (I had about 35 bowls) - clearly she had expected more from foreigners.

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After yet another hiatus... [22 Dec 2004|07:17pm]
[ mood | illuminated ]

Well here I am again finally. I'm going to just write a few things that have happened in no particular order, on a vaguely Christmas theme as knowing me I won't post again for a while, starting with:

On Friday I'm going to Morioka and Sendai for a moving Christmas party with Aubrey and Barbie, where we will eat lots of oishii food and experience big city life. And Barbie is such a nice person that she sent me some Christmas decorations which arrived today, so I could finally decorate my tree! Oh, and I bought a Christmas tree. It's fibre optic and about a metre high. But there are no pictures because if you want to see it you have to come to Kuroishi - as so one's really visited so far I have to resort to desperate measures.

And since last night I also have a big pile of presents under my tree as the parcel my parents sent me eventually arrived. I was getting so worried about it - they sent it over 2 weeks ago and I got several things they set afterwards - that I went to the post office in the pouring snow (can snow actually pour? probably not) to ask them to check for it. It took a while for them to understand what I meant, as I was getting quite upset to think that I wouldn't get the presents in time for Christmas - tomorrow is a holiday and I'm leaving Friday morning so today was the last chance. Anyway a lot of the stuff isn't wrapped so I know already that I have plenty of chocolate and a Christmas pudding. And various other nice people have also got me things, the only one on livejournal I think is dee_halo Thankyou!

And speaking of Dee, the 2 of us went to a restaurant in Hirosaki called Da Ferido for a party with a Japanese girl she knows who runs a nail salon. The food was lovely, I met lots of interesting people, including an American professor from Hirosaki University, and we got very drunk. Oh and we played bingo and I won a bottle of Italian beer. Bingo is pretty good here actually - we played it at my bonenkai (forget the year party) and I won a nice Christmas decoration. This slightly made up for not being able to eat most of the food. But at least the wine was very nice.

And now to the reason for my mood - incidentally the official livejournal moods don't include either "illuminated" or "enlightened" - something should be done! I feel quite silly about it actually: while I was cleaning my house I moved some stuff hanging from a wall and noticed that there was a light switch there. A light switch that turned on the main kitchen light that I had assumed was broken all this time. And in other home improvements news I got my extractor fan fixed.

A while ago I went out to dinner with Heike, a German missionary who lives near me in Onoe. I was a bit uncertain about the restaurants in Kuroishi, but the Japanese style place we went to was great and not at all expensive - I'm certainly looking forward to taking ianrdexter there when he visits. If you didn't read about that in his journal, it won't be until April, but one of my teachers has already invited us to his house!

And finally I have to mention the snow. Lots of snow. Everywhere. I don't like snow much, and I anticipate I'll only feel worse about it when it no longer has even the dubious merit of being festive.

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Snow [29 Nov 2004|08:40pm]
[ mood | cold ]

Oh and I completely forgot just now, but it was snowing today. Not settling at all, but it was falling pretty constantly all day.

And on another seasonal note, at ballroom dancing they were playing some Christmas songs!

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Thanksgiving all around! [29 Nov 2004|08:12pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

What is it with Thanksgiving and my flist? Well anyway I thought I'd join the throng of non-North Americans celebrating it, and last weekend I braved the 'scary road' and went to Barbie's thanksgiving party in Shariki (the most inaka place I have been to so far). There was yummy food, particularly the garlicy mashed potato, so thanks a lot Barbie and Aubrey for cooking for us despite our sadly ovenless state (yes I'm sure you Pembroke people are laughing at the hubris of it all, but at least I still have my own bathroom, although speaking of that the hot water is a lot less hot than when I first arrived :( ).

So I stayed at Barbie's overnight and the next day I mentioned I wanted to buy some furniture at some point, so she was really nice and drove me to a furniture place in Goshogawara. I wasn't particularly impressed by their chairs but I did see some odd bean bags which looked very square. I sat down in one and they were very comfy so I gave in and bought one, in a most dextrous colour (beige). I wanted to take a picture of it to show you, but unfortunately after taking the picture my phone's battery was too low to use the SD card, so maybe next time. Yes, just like whatever it was I did during the 'missing month' I will eventually get around to it. Or maybe not. And I also got a tall thin kitchen storage thing, and a cushion.

On Sunday I got my hair cut at a place recommended by my predecessor. They were very nice and I even got a short massage with my haircut! But I wasn't able to speak much Japanese because I feel so odd talking without my glasses on and it really put me off. Anyway, perhaps my hair looks more Japanese now. Well, except for the whole blonde thing.

So, the next big event is the JLPT test next Sunday. There're so many annoying grammar points to learn. I took a practice test a while ago but only just worked out the byzantine scoring system to find out that I would have passed! But of course the real thing could be quite different...

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Conference [22 Nov 2004|09:20pm]
[ mood | calm ]

Well this week we had a conference. It was pretty standard really I suppose so I won't go into it in detail, except to say that I felt a bit unwanted as an ALT sometimes as it seemed to be more a conference for JTEs (Japanese English teachers).
But there was a really cool talent show on Thursday night, I had no idea Aomori JETs were so talented, particularly the dancing and poetry.

Friday night there was another party at Mike's house, it was going really well until I found myself suffering from massive cat allergies, although I'm not normally very allergic to cats. So I went home (well back to Mandy's house actually) and stupidly used my coat (which had been on the floor with the cat) as a pillow and made myself even worse.

So I wasn't in such good shape for the Korean culture event I went to the next day, but it was interesting nonetheless. I learned that Korea is shaped like a rabbit, and also tried some Korean fruit tea which comes in a jar like jam, looks like jam, but is actually tea. So when I stopped at the Aomori foreign food shop on the way home (scarily I spent over ¥5000 (£25)) I found some of that tea, although I haven't tried it yet.

In Japanese learning news I was excited at the Korean event when I could read the whole first sentence of the handout, including kanji, but a bit disappointed today when I did my practice test for 3-kyu and realised how much I don't know yet.

As there's a holiday tomorrow and my students are all having tests until thursday I have very little work to do so maybe I will get around to updating my journal, and dino_dave a bit more.

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I'm still alive! [17 Nov 2004|08:17pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]

Well, sorry everyone for not updating in so long. Basically whenever I do something interesting I want to update, but then I always feel that I don't have time to do it justice, and then the next time there's even more stuff to update on, and so it goes on. I'm not sure if this means I'm a perfectionist or if I'm just lazy...
Anyway, very soon (hopefully) I'll write a huge entry about everything I've done in the last month (wow has it really been that long?), but for today I'll just talk about today and not get anymore behind.

Today I will write about food. At school one of the teachers gave everyone a portion of 'red rice' - rice with azuki beans - which is unsuprisingly red, which apparently is for special occasions although I didn't find out what the occasion was. Then later I went to the patisserie (why does Japan have so many patisseries?) by the station. It's not that the cakes are anything special, but the woman who works there is really nice and I usually chat to her a little bit. When I went in she wasn't there but she turned up just as I was leaving so I was able to thank her for the apples she gave me last time I was in there. And the final piece of food related news is that I made pasta with aubergines. I'd bought an aubergine flavoured sauce from the foreign food store so when I noticed aubergines in the Co-op (or Kohpu as they call it here) it seemed like a good idea. And actually it was in fact very nice only it took me about 10 minutes to open the jar. Why oh why are jars made so people can't open them? Or is it just my feebleness?

And in other news I marked student essays today from the essay test and they were actually really good! I'm not sure if they've actually improved or if they just put more effort into them than usual, but anyway I was pleased. But there are also some good quotes:
And if it gets too handy I am sad, because I don't drink the juice my grandmother made. (from an essay about vending machines in schools)

I lives in the country, I prefers the country...("Which do you prefer, the country or the town")

Insightful (especially for those of us on JET!)
I am looking forward to reality someday (This essay was about using summer time. Most of them seemed to think summer time would actually create more time in the day?!)

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[25 Oct 2004|10:09pm]
And finally I have a picture. Although it's not very good. This kanji is pronounced AN and means apricot, and is apparently used in girl's names.
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[25 Oct 2004|09:41pm]
[ mood | lazy ]

Being lazy, I shan't tell you about my fruitless attempt to climb Mt Iwaki with a hangover, or whatever it was that happened last week, or even last weekend.

But yesterday, with the help of Kevin, I managed to buy an S-video cable, and today I worked out how to use it (for the Americans out there this was less simple than it appears to you as it involves changing the TV settings). So I feel accomplished and can now watch DVDs on my TV.

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Cheese and art [13 Oct 2004|02:15am]
[ mood | artistic ]

This weekend I went to Aomori to see the Munakata Shiko art gallery. I didn't get round to leaving home till about lunchtime, and I had lunch once I arrived, and then got lost looking for it, so by the time I arrived it was 4ish, and worried that the place would be closing as soon as I got there. But as the gallery is very small and open till 5:30 it was fine. The art was nice, and I had a long chat with the director who apparently used to be an English teacher (his english was very good), and I bought a set of posters even though I only really liked one of them, as my house is still so bare and in need of decoration.

On the way back to the station I got quite spectacularly lost and managed to take an hour to walk a distance that had taken half an hour despite getting lost previously. But while waiting for my bus I found a foreign food store that sold ...
They even had Tallagio but I stuck to boring Cheddar as I didn't think I would finish it before it became a biological hazard. And they also had lots of cereals including porridge for those cold winter mornings, so I stocked up.

Oh and thankyou scrake for explaining about the marquees, and for giving me my largest ever number of comments.

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Ensoku [08 Oct 2004|02:07am]
[ mood | full ]

On Friday we had our school ensoku (trip). I was going with the second years, and having been told we would be hiking in Iwaki I was a bit apprehensive, particularly when we arrived and I saw how big the mountain was. However I was fairly confident we wouldn't be climbing to the top given the time we were supposed to be back at school. So after getting off the bus and spending almost an hour having each class photographed (a Japanese tradition it would seem), we walked up a short slope and had a barbeque. And then we went home.
It was a very good barbeque though, and I even helped slightly by chopping various random Japanese vegetables which I asked people the names of and then promptly forgot.

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Everything seems OK so far... [06 Oct 2004|02:44am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Well I appear to have sucessfully connected to the Internet! Annoyingly though I left a lot of the pieces of paper at school so I can't register to pay the bill or whatever the next stage is supposed to be. Thankyou everyone for your messages of support at this difficult time.

And I've just noticed I only seem to use the happy moods, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I only post when I'm happy rather than that I'm happy all the time.

Oooh, it' s so nice to type on a proper keyboard where all the keys are where you expect them to be!

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Yahoo! [05 Oct 2004|05:32pm]
[ mood | excited ]

Last night my Yahoo modem box arrived and once I'd realised that one of the ports was obscured by a sticker, and rearranged my complicated collection of extension leads and those little blocks that turn one socket into 2 or 3 (is there a word for those by the way?) I managed to get it all plugged in, but then assumed that for the next stage I'd need someone who can read Japanese. I've been looking at the "Setto-apu" booklet this morning though - no lessons at all today for a variety of reasons - and it's so idiot proof I think I should be able to do it myself despite not being able to read it, as there are screen shots for every single click. So possibly tonight you'll see the first ever post from my house! or of course not if it all goes horribly wrong.

And I also managed to get the heaters to work, so I was nice and warm last night.

In other news, happy birthday to David in Kizakuri if you're reading this! (sorry I can't do those scrolling things)

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Rice [01 Oct 2004|11:53am]
[ mood | enthralled ]

On the way to Japanese club yesterday I was looking at the rice again. I remember when we had Japanese people to stay with us they always seemed fascinated by the cows and sheep in the fields, and I thought that was odd, and now here I am doing the same thing. When I first got here it was an unexpectedly brilliant green that together with the misty blue mountains in the background made the landscape look like a stylised version of itself. Then when the rice was being harvested it was interesting to see how it's stored on sticks rather than in bales on the ground. And now that its gone in lots of places you can see the fields covered with water, which is another new thing, or at least it's new for them to be supposed to be underwater.

Sorry about that rambling.

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[29 Sep 2004|10:52am]
[ mood | complacent ]

Yesterday I accomplished 2 important things - I finally sent off my Yahoo BB application, and I learned how to use my rice cooker. Eating rice for breakfast doesn't sound like such an odd idea now...

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[28 Sep 2004|10:20am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Well people have been complaining that I don't update enough so here you are. And as I've (hopefully) learned how to do cuts, I'll try that out too.

Lots of cornCollapse )
So that about brings you up to date.

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[22 Sep 2004|11:01am]
[ mood | content ]

So on Friday after the sports day was cancelled, I assumed the rest of it would be held next week, but apparently not. It seems a shame after the kids put so much work into it, but on the up side, we did have the Sports day enkai.
This was good fun, although I gave a really useless speech because I thought I ought to write it in hiragana and not romanji, which meant I kept losing my place in it. It was my first enkai with all the teachers together, and lots of them seemed really keen to talk to me, which is quite different from how they are at school. Lots of them acted very drunk, despite not drinking that much - it seems that just a token amount of alcohol is enough to give you an excuse to be silly.
We then went to nijikai at karaoke, where I sang 99 Luftballons so that I could impress them with my language skills rather than my singing. I was very depressed by the words though - I hadn't really noticed them before and thought it was a happy song about balloons. And after that there was a sanjikai at a ramen place.

This weekend Anne and I drove to Hachinohe to Mike's party. For those of you from home - yes there are 2 Annes in Aomori, we're both British, went to Cambridge and speak Russian. The party featured blue boiler suits, which immediately made it unique in my experience.

And today I have my first ever day with no classes! (Well since the start of term). I'm actually quite excited about it, and I'll get a chance to do some Japanese study, which I've been neglecting a bit lately.

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Sports day [17 Sep 2004|01:15pm]
Well, today was supposed to be sports day, but when I woke up and saw the menacing clouds I didn't feel very optimistic about it.
The school didn't share my worries though, so the day started with a parade, where I had to judge the home rooms on their marching. They all had colourful flags, most of which had nothing to do with school or sports day at all, but which were at least decorative. Soon after that, a heavy shower began. It was fine for me as I was under the teacher's pavilion thing, but the kids got soaked. The sports day carried on however, with no one seeming any less enthusiastic, and later as the rain eased off it appeared that the school had made the right decision.
Then the real downpour began. Everyone sheltered glumly under trees for a while and looked at the flooded running track until eventually it was decided to call the sports day off and let the pupils go home. Of course, soon after getting back into the shool the sun came out. And even more obviously teachers don7t get to go home so I'm writing this.

One good thing though is that I got time to try the YahooBB website again, and this time it worked so it appears I will be able to get it after all, but from what other people have written it might take a long time.

In other news I finally sent my Mum a birthday present, only about a week late.
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