March 14, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day! (early)

So yesterday there was an "Irish Day" in Ise, with a parade and Irish music and everything. The parade was probably the most subdued affair I have ever been a part of, and certainly the quietest St. Patty's parade in existence. But after we got done processing down the main streets of the city, we ended up in the square of a covered outdoor mall and finally got a little louder :3

There, among other delights including Power Rangers who subdued a pig-faced demon with the power of Ise-Shima team spirit, a Japanese band from Nagoya played some fantastic reels. One of our lovely organizers on the JET end taught the crowd some easy Irish line dances. I'd tuckered myself out during the first two rounds, thus I sat out the final song and got the shenanigans on film:

Guidance for the J-go deficient: "jyousei" = ladies; "dansei" = mans

In this dance the wimmins are supposed to form one line, and the guys the other. Of course there weren't really even numbers at the event, and getting most Japanese men (cool old dudes excepted) to do anything in a circle with everybody watching is like herding cats. Nevertheless, it was good times :D

On the real St. Patrick's Day, I will be hopping a night-bus to Tokyo in the first leg of my two-week trip to India. I am so stoked, you guys! First three days I am host-famming it up in Delhi, next week is building houses with a volunteer group down in Andhra Pradesh, and if I survive all that hard work in the burning sun, I get to chillax for my last three days with a pre-arranged tour package. And then I get to go back to work the day after I return, haaaaaa ha ha ha oh god (>__>) I still have no idea what I am teaching next term besides the first-year classes.

February 18, 2010

sweet & simple with shallots

Tonight's fare is another suggestion from my friend Ginny, which I plugged into Google and then found this as a guideline for, but honestly it's pretty hard to screw up.

You getcha six shallots and a packet (or two!) of baby tomatoes. Some olive oil, salt & pepper, and a splash of white wine later, and you've got deliciousness ready in under 15 minutes!

I decided to toss the pasta in there because I didn't feel like making anything else more complicated as a separate side, and it seemed the thing to do, given there was already olive oil and tomatoes in the equation. And ho mans, those tomatoes really soak up the wine juices! I wish I'd put more in, they are like little flavorsplosions wreaking tasty havoc in your mouth.

On a completely unrelated note, curling is actually kind of a mesmerizing sport...obviously I am suffering from the lack of new Caprica eps last week.

February 9, 2010

a day in the life

So hourly comic day was February first. I didn't find out about it until the fourth, but I did one anyway because hey, doodling all day! Who doesn't love that?

Links to the pages, because they are way too huge for this frame (also apologies for the narsty shadows, my camera is old)

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

January 23, 2010

today's adventure in foodcraft: tomato basil seafood soup

...and by "seafood" I mean "shrimp and clams" because I didn't have the patience to pick through the fish at Max Value today.

Thanks to Ginny (and I guess Boston Market) for the recipe! I'm not sure why this is supposed to be "intermediate" level - maybe because it involves more than two ingredients and no microwave?

But seriously, this is so quick and easy and simply tasty I am going to be going through EVEN MORE cans of tomato sauce than I already do. I probably account for like 40% of Kagome's sales in this town (so for those who are wondering, no, I cannot in fact get Boston Market stuff in Japan, nor would I really want to since generic garlic-onion-tomato sauce does just as well - plus, less fat content since it's non-creamy)

And I FINALLY found a locally-sourced supply of seafood what I can eats without worrying over the heavy metal content. Hooray for clams /o/ I do feel a little bad about boiling the little dudes alive, though. They never hurt nobody. But they are dericious, and in this case I feel more hungry than I do guilty.

January 13, 2010

Japan, you should really just send gift-cards from now on

Following up it's influenzariffic Christmas present, Japan's birthday present to me: chest congestion. Mmmmm, phlegmtastic :\

The Interwebs' birthday present to me: INFINITELY MOAR BETTER 8D
Say what you will about ND's internal politics (and I have said a lot of critical things), we have the awesomest damn band in the universe.

January 2, 2010

REAL winter

This is what it looks like.

See that lack of mountains? Those sprawling farmlands? The snow piled 3-4 feet deep? That is JAPAN, man! Only not, because Hokkaido is hardly anything like the mainland, except for that people with black hair and brown eyes who speak Japanese live there. And a healthy smattering of foreigners, too.

Foreigners who don't get stared or marveled at as much, it seemed to me. What I really liked about Sapporo was that people would leave me to my own business, but were very helpful when I needed directions or whatevs. Also the grid system. Oh. My. Jeebus. Grid systems
are BEAUTIFUL, and cities built on grids are made of win. Sapporo is a Japanese city where you absolutely cannot get lost, it is un-possible. And it has great shopping, and great eating, and cheese, a-a-and BAGELS. BAGELS WITH CREAM CHEESE I seriously almost started crying right there in the middle of the store, I have been having the worst goddamn cravings for bagels and cream cheese for, what, probably a year now?

Best moment of Christmas day, in fact, for me, was sitting on an express train out to Asahikawa with my travel buddy, looking out the window at what honestly could have been any flat stretch of Wisconsin, eating my earl-grey flavored bagel with plain honest cream cheese slathered all over it. A close second was finally making it to a hot spring bath after getting hella lost, but by that time my Christmas Present From Japan, a.k.a. raging cold / very probably swine flu, was in full swing and I was feverish and cranky. This is the podunk mountain village we ended up in at one point, and grumbly as I was I couldn't help but admire the irony:

...Okay this is one of those things that is only really funny to people who know Japanese. Basically, we are at this point in central Hokkaido where it is cold as the ninth circle of hell, and stumble across this place whose name literally means "to know coldness" and on top of that sounds pretty darn close to what my students exclaim in the open-air hallways of our school at this time of year: "Wah! Samu'-!" ( "cold" is supposed to be "samui," but Kansai people love to drop syllables) I guarantee the Japanese teachers will find it hilarious.

Moving on, Touhoku. Really, really effing pretty c: The snow followed me all the way back to Nagoya, for pete's sake. Just
look at this magic right here (this is in Nagano Prefecture, just south of Matsumoto):

After another 10 minutes or so, the snow got so thick you couldn't see 50 feet out, and the mountains just sort of disappeared. And then reappeared, even bigger than before. Japanese Alps: way impressive, you guys.

I connected up with two of the three slated hosts for my Great Meander back southwards. First night, my Japanese host dude took me out for a local (Akita) variety of nabe, in which the special ingredient was kiritanpo, mooshed-up rice cylinders that are hollow and closed at one end and sorta diagonally sliced at the other. The rice still retains its ricey-ness, so it's not at all like mochi, and it does
an excellent job of soaking up the tasty nabe broth :d

Second night, I was crashing the couch (well, futon) of a fellow JET. He's been around the world a bit, did Peace Corps in South Africa, and was eminently gracious in sharing his stash of American cold medication with me, as well as some tea. We went out for Italian food in Sendai and talked for hours without really noticing the time go by and it was generally a very chill and groovy stay. I really wished I'd had more time to spend in that city. As it was I probably could have just stayed a second day & night and not bothered with Matsumoto / Nagano, but then I guess I wouldn't have had that lovely picture to show you above.

My would-be hostess down thataways never connected up with me, so around 11:30 I wandered into a business hotel that was about as overpriced as anything you could expect to find near a busy station - 5,500 and change for one person for a night. Actually most of the other hotels were charging more, but that still doesn't mean it's reasonable. As it happened, I'd managed to sneak in half an hour past the stated closing time, but before the manager guy had left and set the key-coded lock on the main door. So when he waddled out from a back room I asked if he had
any free space, not really expecting anything. Must've had a soft spot for foreign girls down on luck, though, 'cause he offered to let me have a room for the 4,000 yen I claimed was everything I had on me (this was a half-truth: I DID have 4,000 yen in my pocket. And another 10,000 in my wallet, which was in my bag.)

Got back into Nagoya on New Year's Eve, and spent the night out with friends.
Then I spent most of Jan. 1 sleeping off the effects of New Year's Eve / travel weariness. Still got a sniffle and a cough lingering, but otherwise I feel mostly peachy-keen.

I'll leave off with a view from the top floor of the Chocolate Factory in Sapporo city,
where they have a sweets cafe overlooking Shiroi Koibito Park (Snowman Park). That was a very delicious Christmas Eve indeed :3

December 20, 2009


It's a typical December day in western Japants.

The wind-chill is below freezing, my sliding door and window are open to try and suck out some of the dust from my very unfiltered living space, and I look like this -->

That's a warmfuzzysweater underneath my Dinosaur Comics hooded sweatshirt. I would have another full layer underneath my warm corduroy pants, except I am washing just about every piece of cold-weather underthings and overthings that I own.

Why? 'Cause for Hokkaido adventures commence in 72 hours \o/ And after THAT? Touhoku adventures. And then Chubu adventures. I'ma wandering down the local train network (well, starting off on the expresses because I realized there's no feasible way to get from Sapporo to Akita in a single day otherwise x.x durrrrrrdurrdurr I fail geography), stopping off at a few of the larger cities on my way back down to Kansai.

I initially had no plan whatsoever but to maybe try a couple of the inns / hostels I happened across in the metropolises, and take refuge in 24-hour internets cafes if that didn't work out. But as departure day approached I got to thinking maybe my spirit of adventure would be less dampened if I had an actual sleeping room for sleeping times. To that end, I joined this couchsurfing / international exchange network a Siberian dude at a dinner party told me about, and sent off one request for crashspace for each of my stopoff points, not expecting to have much luck given that it's the holidays and most people are off having their own fun travels.

The morning after I sent the requests, I'd gotten affirmatives from all three peoples :D These are vouched-for and peer-reviewed experienced hosts, with confirmed identities / addresses and so on, so safety factor is high. The network is very efficiently self-regulating in that respect, to minimize on creepers. PLUS they all sound like for-seriously awesome people! Two of the three have been around the world and back again, one of 'em is actually a current JET, and one is a BRAIN SURGEON. SUPERNIFTY.

I am all kinds of excited about this trip ~/o/ (that is me running around with my arms out making whooshing noises)