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Well, I guess my favourite place not in the guide books would be Ina, but I'm not sure that counts as a place to visit, rather a place to return home to.  So, I guess the best place I've been to which IS in guide books but is a relatively little-visited place is Sado Island, about an hour and a half off the coast of Niigata in the Japan Sea.

Kakigori at SadoI went there last summer for the Earth Celebration festival, and found the whole place to be thoroughly charming.  I particularly liked the total lack of convenience stores and vending machines.  You never realize how ubiquitous these things are until you can't just buy a bottle of green tea whenever you feel like it. 

I was on holiday with a friend of mine.  She arrived the night before I did and met some people from Nagoya who she proceeded to regale with stories about me, so much so that when I arrived the following lunch time I was met with the comment:  "So, this is the bitch you were telling us about?".  It turns out she was telling them about the time I capsized our kayak in Thailand and got everything, including the money, totally soaking wet.  Still, doesn't quit warrant the name-calling, ne.  Needless to say, since that holiday our friendship has cooled off a great deal.  Anyway, with said people we hired a car for the day and got to drive about the island, which has some stunning coastline, tropical-coloured sea and even a fjord.  On the other day we hired bicycles and cycled round the coast to a small bay where you could go sailing in a coracle.  On all three evenings, we climbed to the top of a hill and watched amazing taiko drumming performances before heading back down to catch the last bus back over to the next bay where we were camped out next to the beach.  On the last night I took the midnight ferry back to the mainland and caught the bus back to Tokyo, nibbling on onigiri I picked up at a brilliant vegan food stall on my way out of town.

Here are some more photos behind a cut so I don't take up more room:

Pics )Pic )
One of the performances down near the harbour.

Amazing coastline.
blacklilly: (Shibuya)
First off, I've been watching the Chilean miners being rescued since it started at lunchtime and it has made my day being able to see these men come out of the ground.  I normally feel quite misanthropic towards humans in general, but seeing such hard work and effort from people in Chile and the co-operation from countries around the world to get these men out has given me a nice feeling that humans can do really brilliant things when they want/need/have to.  A guy on the BBC said earlier that this reaffirms that humans are the most important thing on the planet.  I wouldn't go that far, but I think the human spirit, at its' best, may be.

As a teacher I get to meet over 100-150 people a week.  At the moment, they're mostly kids.  At first I hated kids, not because I hated kids, but because I really had no understanding of them.  I guess I was scared of them, that's usually where some hates come from.  Since teaching in elementary school, I've got to know some lovely little humans, and they really can make my day...or ruin it, depending on how much they cry.

However, I also work with adults, and I think the most interesting person I've met so far was one of my students in Yokohama.  I'm calling her M. I remember very clearly her first lesson with me.  M was a tall, plump lady with waist length hair and glasses - the Japanese version of an Indian Squaw (pardon my un-PC use of the word "Indian") - and she was shaking and sweating like a leaf on a hot day, which is the most unusual reaction I've had from a student. She always seemed nervous and almost monosyllabic the rest of the time, barely making eye contact and mumbling when school staff spoke to her. I taught her for about a year, and during that time she told me all sorts of stories.  The thing that impressed me most was the amount of travelling she had done.  As the owner of her father's business (she is a landlord in Yokohama - big big bucks) she not only had the money, but the time to take her husband away to go on world cruises, scuba-diving holidays in the Maldives, Indonesia and everywhere in between, helicopter trips through South America, and even taking ships to the Arctic and Antarctic.  M said at the Antarctic base she spent her time playing with penguins, and sleeping though Polar Bear sightings in the Arctic.  She said the only place she didn't want to go was the Middle East.

Her personal history was also very very interesting.  Her mother was bedridden with TB while she was a young girl, and so for 6 years was confined to her bedroom.  M and her sister were brought up by her father and aunt and rarely ever saw their mother.  M was very boyish, her sister very feminine. She used to go out drinking in Kabukicho with her friends on all-nighters at high-school, and when she started going into a yaki-tori shop in Yokohama to drink whiskey at the age of 16, her father set her up a tab so she didn't have to get them from men. M went to university in the 60s, read Mao's "Red Book" and became a student activist, eventually getting kicked out of her Christian women's university for arguing with the lecturers and protesting against the Vietnam War.  Then she spent some time trying to teach kids, but gave up after her cram school students climbed out the window whilst she had her back turned and ran off.

What she did between then and taking over her father's business, I was never really able to ascertain but she did tell me about her decision to get married in her late 30s.  She went to see her father's bank manager and told him she wanted to get married, and asked if her had anyone in his office who would be suitable.  So she got married.  Her sister's son (sister is divorced - unusual) is agorophobic (or just a massive otaku) and never leaves the house, preferring to stay in and play computer games. M's husband does all the cooking for her and her mother (who lives in the apartment upstairs, has a massive collection of wigs, and dislikes baby birds because they're too noisy), cleans the windows in their office building, and generally sees to the running of the business while M snoozes or studies English in her office. 

I recently met another super-rich person who I'll tell you about another time after I've gone to visit his fabulous house in Izu.
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Exhausted and mildly spaced-out by an overnight flight from Narita, I arrived in Cairns to find it warm and overcast, and amusingly familiar. This would be the first of many incidents, which can only be called "reverse culture shocks". We waited a long time for a coach to take us to our hotel. At least, it seemed a long time, but 28 hours without sleep can do that to a person.

Whisked to the hotel, we were dropped off and had only time to brush our teeth in the reception toilets before being marched 10 minutes down the road to GEOS Cairns, a school so well-equipped and comfy that it made me want to say "いいな” alot. There we heard talks from both DOS and Principle of GEOS Cairns, both of whom did a mighty good job of selling the place to me. Following the talks, we gave presentations of our own, though my original 30 minute talk was reduced down to a frustrating 10 minutes. And then, a whistle-stop tour of the school, including having to climb four flights of steep steps to see even more lovely classrooms - you know, the ones that have carpet, and OHPs and all that fancy modern stuff (no interactive whiteboards, but who has those anyway?).

Then, we were marched back to the hotel and given 15 minutes to change for our "buffet dinner". This turned into 30 minutes as most people had to scrub off a thick layer of sweat and grime from their plane sore bodies. Marching quickly to the hotel where dinner was to take place, we quickly dove into the food on offer and I was pleased to find myself full-up for the first time in a year, especially as part of this gluttony involved heavenly chocolate mousse. (You'd think that for the amount of time I spend feeling hungry on a daily basis, I would have lost more weight than I have.)

Later we (about 40 us) piled into a bar called the Woolshed, where I was delighted to find cider on tap (even if it was just Strongbow). And glory be, they didn't have blackcurrant cordial, but they did have raspberry, and lo, I drank "cider and black", in the process converting many to my tipple of choice. Alas, like the little Cinderella's we were, we had to rush back to the hotel for our 12pm curfew. I ended up in someone's room where everyone kept shushing each other. Eventually I got fed up and went to bed at about 2am, making my interrupted wakefulness about 40 hours. Almost as good as my insomniac days.

Bright and early (6.30am) I got up and walked up to the sea-front where I was met with mud and pelicans. But it was lovely anyway. Then I headed back to the hotel pool where I lounged around for a while in the early morning sun. After breakfast, we were marched down to the harbour where we caught a catamaran to Green Island, 45 minutes from Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef. As I felt a bit sea-sick I rode on the front of the boat all the way there, getting splattered to a salty end by sea-waves. Off the boat I began to feel queasy and decided to forego lunch (on another boat) and go snorkelling instead. Having never been snorkeling before, and with no one to really tell me what to do I plunged in and both amused and scared myself with near suffocation as I choked on seawater and tried to breath in through my nose. Eventually I got the hang of it and enjoyed watching coral and fish below me. Other people saw squid, turtles, sting rays and small sharks. Clearly I must smell funny to sea-creatures.

I headed off to find food after that and ended up eating, not Fried Potato, not French Fries, but Chips out of a paper cup with vinegar and HP sauce! Strange the things you get used to not having with your chips. A cute bird kept looking at me so I gave him a chip, and a few minutes later was enlightened as to the sign (above my eye-line) that told you not to feed them. Doh. Then off to look for crocodiles! Another snorkel, a little beach lounging and then a rush back to the boat.

Mexican for dinner, stock-piling goodies in Woolworths, and then oblivion when I got back to the hotel.

I wanted to write much more about my trip than I have here. To give some impressions of the place and the people. Yet it was such brief trip (1 and a half days in Cairns in total) that it's hard to say anything definitive. It feels rather like a dream, one I remember quite clearly not wanting to come back from. What I will say is that from what I've seen, Australia is a nice place to visit. People in Cairns are friendly, the weather was gorgeous (especially in hindsight when I returned to find the first cold-snap in Ina), and though the city is quite sedate, I definitely want to go back and spend some more time there checking out the rainforest and everything else there is to do.

You can see photos here. I would have posted some here but my internet connection is having a particularly crap day today.

Now I have to rescue my umbrella from last night's restuarant and check train times for tomorrow's visa trip, and then I'm going to watch "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and go to bed early as I have a headache from all the excitement I've had today. But more on that tomorrow.
blacklilly: (Default)
Today is hot and humid, though overcast, which makes the thought of going outside later a little more bearble.
The days have been hot this last week though, mercifully, not as hot as last week, which saw me walking around Yokohama in 38 degree heat and what must have been 80% humidity. Needless to say the experience was...wet.

I took myself to Yokohama for reconnaissance purposes. I've been considering the idea of transferring there* at the beginning of next year so thought I'd go and see what kind of place it is. It is a little less frantic than Tokyo, only 30 minutes away, which is the first thing in its favour. It's quite easy to walk about. I started off in Kannai and walked up and around China Town, then up to Yamashita Koen to check out the sea-view. I then carried on up to Harbour View Park, which affords a panoramic view of Yokohama Bay. I stopped off at what I thought was the Kanagawa Museum of Literature, but which actually turned out to be something a little different. It had tonnes of books to ogle, though, along with a collection of cat figures.

So I wandered around a bit more, taking in the Foreigner's Cemetery, Italian Gardens and the Motomachi Shopping district, before heading back through China Town (where I found a cute cat shop), and then to Yokohama. I met up with Janan, who is over here for a few weeks, and we went to a yaki-niku place for dinner with some of her friends. I stumbled off about 8pm (it was all you could eat and drink for 90mins) and had to find my way to Gyotoku in Chiba, where I was staying with Saori. I got there 2 hours later.

So do I want to move to Yokohama? At the moment I'm having a period of great indecision. I've started to feel quite settled in Ina lately, so the thought of moving away and having to start all over again is putting me off. It may just be that I'm going through a good period here at the moment. I'm sure the winter will bring with it that depressing bleakness which has broken so many teachers here before me. Yokohama certainly has many more things to do than Ina, more people to meet etc. But, it's a big place and I rather enjoy the leisurely pace of life here. Some may call that pace of life non-existent...

On the happenings front, I spent Saturday night in my favourite bar. A local musician was playing guitar for the evening in the corner, taking requests. I accompanied on the bongos for a few while, surprising myself at an unknown ability to keep time. By 1am the whole bar was singing "Stand By Me", sending the Mama into raptures of delight. I went back last night to pick up a present I'd forgotten to take home on Saturday, and she and I watched Duran Duran videos, including the uncensored "Girls on Film", which I don't recall having seen before (I'm sure I'd recall pony boys being soaped down, and mud wrestling).

So, here's a picture of me and Joe (Yasuko in the background):

Until I have something else to say...

* Fukuoka in Kyushu has also been suggested to me for its nice beaches, but could I handle the heat and typhoons?

In Transit

Nov. 5th, 2006 12:41 pm
blacklilly: (Default)
This is pretty darn sweet. Schippol (Skipol) (sic sic sic) Airport in Amsterdam has wireless!

Well, There was a brief and only slightly tearful goodbye at Heathrow this morning. My luggage was too heavy so I had to pay £108 in excess baggage fees, Gits. The flight here was perfect. i was feeling quite glum at the beginning but towards the other side of the north sea I started to perk up.

Last night I had barely any sleep. I went to bed about 10.30pm, woke up at midnight, woke up at 2.15, woke at 3.30, woke up at 4.45 and FINALLY got up at 5am. Let's hope this means I can have a good kip on the plane. Have got a sudden fear that I should be wearing a suit when I arrive. This had crossed my mind, but I thought it seemed uinreasonable to expect me to sit for an entire day in polyester blend material. I was 'randomly' searched at Heathrow. Probably something to do with the big boots. ANyway, I had to take my boots and coat off and stand in a varity of stupid positions while someone x-rayed me. What they failed to notice was the tin of Vaseline I'd accidently put in my rucksack. So much for airport security. Still, no chapped lips for me.

I hoping to get a lot of reading and writing done on the plane. I have
blacklilly: (Default)
Hellooooo everyone. Boy, do I feel weird. I haven't had any sleep for well over 24 hours now and I'm beginning to feel a bit wibbly. Well, I got the plane from Vancouver yesterday and arrived in Heathrow at 11am today. Somewhere along the line I lost eight hours so I'm feeling really odd. It all seems like it was only yesterday...which it was...kind of. Oh, my head hurts. I can't sleep now either. I've gone past the sleep barrier now, it'll be hallucinations next.

I had a fantastic time while I was away though. Did lots of running, jumping and climibing mountains; shopping, drinking and swimming (with pupfish, catfish, turtles, alligators and jelly fish!); and generally spending lots of money. My unopened credit card bill is sitting on the end of my bed. I can't quite face the thought of it yet! Alas, no Whitby for me!

Has anyone got the new issue of Meltdown? What did you think of my article? I can never bear to read them after they're written. I cringe at the thought.

Well, painting my toenails and then to bed with me. Back when I'm human.

I'm Off!

Sep. 18th, 2002 07:23 pm
blacklilly: (Default)
Dear All!!!

I'm off to the US on Friday so I'll be gone for a while - coz I'm really sure you're ALL going to miss me. (!) Those of you who have my e-mail, DON'T email me as I've got enough crap to deal with in the inbox!!

See you all in a month!

blacklilly: (Default)
A busy week at work. My feet hurt. Lots of people off sick which is no good when you have front of store to organise. Have met some nice people during the week, which I shall hopefully get to know/gossip with better.

Young Gideon Letch is coming to visit on Friday! Hurrah!! He says he has bought me a present too! I like presents... He also reckons there's some sort of metal distribution company based in Stoke Poges called "Black Tear" so he wants to go and see them! Interesting to see if someone rock and roll (apart from ME, darling) actually lives here.

Mum and Dad came back from Italy and brought a bottle of Chianti with them...yummy.

This time in two weeks I will be in Boston, and then this time in a month I will be in Vancouver!! He he he, I'm VERY excited. For all of you whose e-mails I have you will be on the update e-mail which I hope to do about once a week from my gothkitten account. Alas, due to exense of holiday it looks like Whitby is out, which is a shame coz I'm getting withdrawl symptoms from the old goth scene - no good when I really should have my finger on the pulse.

Tomorrow, I hope to get some writing done, even if it is only 100 words it's better than nothing. Andrew Motion was on the TV last night, I couldn't help but think back to my interview and the "you don't have much life experience" comment. I show you all... I'll get some dammit!!!


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