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Squared Sevens Blogging Corp.
Friday, 4 August 2006
Greetings from Kyushu
Hello All, I've finally managed to get settled in my new home of Ono Town, Bungo Ono City, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. As I type this, I just had my first official full day at Ono Junior High, which is my base school where I'll work Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. I'm still recovering from today's heat and humidity, which is fierce in August on this southern island of Japan. As soon as I stepped off the plane at Oita Airport, I knew I was in trouble. Of course, this winter I'll be begging for warmth in my uninsulated apartment. Such is life in Japan.

Atlanta Orientation was great. The Hotel we stayed at, the Renaissance Concourse hotel, is serious luxury, and everyone was still in a pretty nice mood. The flight over was nice, in that it was uneventful, which is really all you can ask for. Tokyo Orientation was awful. I never thought I'd say this but I was so glad to leave Tokyo. It was just nonstop, mostly boring meetings, surrounded by many annoying other foreigners, jet lagged, hot and tired, in a suit and tie. Don't even get me started on the elevators, Keio Shinjuku Plaza is a nice hotel but they have about half the elevators they need to have.

As for where I'm staying, it is in fact quite rural, although not quite as much as I expected. I live in a quite mountainous region, well away from the coast. In fact, everywhere you look there are tree-covered mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. So, the scenery's great. But I could see how things could get boring fast. There's just not much to do around here, and everything's so spread out a car is absolutely necessary. Additionally, there aren't many folks my age- it's either young, old, or really old (this is Japan remember). So hopefully I can find some people my age here or figure out where to go on weekends. Don't want to go crazy from boredom.

Oh, how's this for fun. My first official duty will be giving a speech (some in Japanese, some in English) in a ceremony on August 6th. Do you remember what happened on that day in history? Oh yeah, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Talk about an awkward situation. But I'll but on my best diplomat face and try my hardest to make a good speech.

OK, that's enough typing for now... I'll post about my schools and apartment later!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 7:25 AM EDT
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Friday, 28 July 2006
JET Finally
Got back from the family beach trip, a little bit sunburned but overall a lot of fun. Leaving tomorrow for Atlanta, then on to Tokyo on Saturday. It's tough to be leaving the people and places that I love, but really there's nothing else I'd rather do than go to Japan right now. Hopefully it will be a fun and informative experience.

Later Peeps! And don't forget to email.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:27 AM EDT
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Sunday, 23 July 2006
Crazy Busy
Finshing up job, cleaning my room, buying suits, family trips, packing bags, passports, visas, doctors appointments, insurance, atm cards, omiyage, flights, socks, shoes, car... too much. I need a break.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:05 AM EDT
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Monday, 10 July 2006
All Dogs Go To Heaven
My dog, Kelsey, died today. We found her in the lake, in front of our neighbor's lawn. As best we can tell, she decided it was her time to go and went off to the lake to die. It's not a huge surprise that she passed. Her hearing, sight, and sense of smell had all been going for some time now, and she pretty much slept the entire day. Despite her health problems, no one was ready to see her go. It was tough on everyone, but as for myself, I've never been this close to a death before. It's been a real shock to my system, and I think I will have to re-evaulate the way I look at a lot of things.

Overall, she had a good, long, healthy life. She was pretty spoiled, and was able to a lot of fun stuff like go on trips with the family. Then, in the end, she decided to leave on her own terms, at her own choosing, with little suffering. If dogs must die, it's all you can ask for.

We buried her with her favorite toy in a nice spot, by some trees, an area popular with birds, plenty of plants. It's right by a window, so all we have to do is look outside and there she is.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:59 PM EDT
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Sunday, 2 July 2006
Diplomacy at its Finest


"Here was Bush, who didn't stop off at the Taj Mahal while in India, touring the home of a music star who died in his bathroom of heart disease and drug abuse in 1977.

Instead of walking down red carpets to review troops, Bush and Koizumi strode over green shag that lined the floors and ceiling of the den. Instead of elegant furniture and chandeliers, they posed for photos in a room decorated with white ceramic monkeys and wooden chairs with armrests carved in the shape of animal heads."



"Proposing a toast to "the further enhancement of Japan-U.S. relations," Koizumi said, "In the words of Elvis, "I want you, I need you, I love you.""



"He was elected to PM, he represents Japan. If he becomes a laughing stock then he makes his country a laughing stock, too."



BUSH & KOIZUMI= BFF

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:19 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Mike's Really Long Japan Trip Post
Was I really in Japan? It was so fast and I was so tired I don't even know if it was real. As I type this I'm sitting back home in the states, still trying to sort it all out.

Well, I really needed to go. Like, I had been waiting to go for so long it was really messing with my head. It was painful in a way, actually. As I was riding the train from Narita to Yokohama, looking at all the boxy houses and bright pachinko parlors along the way, all I could think of was, it's good to be back, finally. But of course it was all over too short. Good news is, I'll be heading back soon for JET. So that will make the wait a little bit easier.

Arrival
Anyways, so yeah, on to the recap. Of course it was a long flight over, I didn't get much sleep (soon to be a common theme). I called Shingo from the airport, it was cool to finally be able to talk to the guy again. After some futile Japanese practice ordering my N'Ex ticket, I got a window seat and checked out the sights. When I arrived at Yokohama station, though, it was packed as hell and I still wasn't sure where to meet up with Shingo. So I'm standing around for about half an hour, thirsty, and when I finally decide to go get a drink, who is it but Mark McInnes pulling on my arm. Even better, he brought one of his school friends to drive us around. Which was a nice surprise.

After dropping my stuff off at Mark's, Shingo and I wandered around Yokohama, stopping at a Yoshinoya for some gyuuyakiniku don (mmm good). Then we found a bar/restaurant to watch the Japan/Australia game on a projection screen for the low price of 1200 yen- drink included. Let me tell you, soccer fans in Japan are quite enthusiastic about their team. It's too bad Japan blew the game, allowing three goals in the last 15 minutes. But it was cool to see everyone so excited. Of course, I was so tired from the flight I nearly passed out a couple of times, but hey, that's just a small detail.

Tuesday
I managed to sleep in for a little bit. Met up with Shingo and Yugo, and we went to Machida. The whole day, we were worried about being able to meet up with Sammy. No one was sure if he had cell phone #'s, or even what form of transport he was going to take to Yokohama. In other words, it could be a lot of fun. It kind of became a running joke. But sure enough, thanks to some planning and teamwork, we met him as soon as he stepped off the train. Of course.

Then, it was time to go to Chinatown for dinner, a move that I approved of. Somebody knew a good place to eat, which we checked out- and then the guy promptly told us to follow him. But to where? It was kind of strange following this guy through Chinatown. Turns out they needed to sit at a different building in the same restaurant, and it turns out the food was pretty decent.

So decent, in fact, I forgot I was going to meet Ayana at Yokohama station. Crap! So I hightailed it over there, and eventually we met up, but all that after a long day of work meant I don't think she was very happy with me. Anyways, we found a little cafe near the station, to meet and catch up on old times, but we really didn't have enough time to sit and talk. Of course, I forgot to get a picture.

Wednesday
There was no letting up, on Wednesday we got up and went right to Fuchinobe and the Obirin Campus. Just like old times, we caught the bus from the station, but unlike old times, the campus was totally transformed. There's a new giant building where you used to park the bikes, the old cafeteria is now an am/pm store, the chapel is gone, they rebuilt the bus stop and nurses building, and worst of all the soccer fields where we used to play are now closed off for future building. It was really quite a surprise seeing all of the differences.

Then it was over to the International office to meet up with Otsuka-san who was such a great help to us. It was cool to catch up, also we met Kanami for about half and hour before she left for Canada the next day. It was fun to talk about old times, unfortunately Kohji-san, another great Obirin guy wasn't there, though. There were also several current exchange students there; we hardly talked to them. It's hardly surprising though. Even when I was a student it was difficult to talk to former students, there's definitely a feeling of "they're in a different group" or something like that. Kind of strange, but an observation that I made.

The fun at Fuchinobe wasn't over yet. We went to Sakuranbo, a great little restaurant near school, and also Hard-Off, where I found some sweet used Famicom games. Oh yeah! That night, we saw Masa's band Brena (www.brena.cc) at the Machida Playhouse. It was rockin.

Thursday
We had planned to go to Tokyo proper, but there was so much other stuff to do that it just wasn't going to happen. So we're off again after a short night's sleep to Yokohama's Minato Mirai, a really cool futuristic part of town. We went up to the Landmark tower, the tallest building in Japan, and got some good pics. Back at ground level, we stopped at World Porters for some delicious Freshness Burger, mmm good.

While we were up in Landmark Tower, we happened to notice a blue tent and a green field next to the Akarenga warehouse. Sure enough, upon closer inspection it was a mini-soccer arena set up by Kirin beer for the World Cup! We'd get to play some soccer after all. It was maybe about the size of a basketball court? Anyways, Shingo, Sammy and I probably played there for an hour, it was really great, but eventually the attendant told use to leave. Next to the field was a Kirin tent with a lot of promotions, a shop, and a little museum set up inside. All in all, it was pretty cool and one of those little things that makes it nice to live in a place such as Yokohama.

Then off to Machida, where we met up with Shin, Taka, and Yugo, and here's where things get really fun. First, a trip to Yodobashi Camera, checking out all the toys and game softs. I couldn't help myself, I ended up getting New Super Mario Bros. for DS, along with a couple of other things. Then, yakiniku, which actually wasn't really that great but everyone was having a good time. Then, of course, karaoke was next, and this had been a long time coming. Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Motorhead, were some personal highlights but I know everyone had a rockin' good time.

Then some folks split up to go to Shibuya, but I elected to stick around for a little more karaoke. I don't remember much from here, except that I tried to do "Ch-Ch-Check it out" by Beastie Boys and failed miserably. After that it was too late to catch the train to Yokohama so we went to Shin's place in Fuchinobe. Now Shin is a nice guy and all but make no mistake he has one of the filthiest apartments I've ever seen. I don't think it's been cleaned in years. Literally. The funk coming from the fridge and bathroom was beyond description. Somehow, I managed to sleep while Shingo and Shin played Mahjongg until the wee hours of the morning.

Friday
It took a while, but the next day I met up with Sammy in Machida. It would be a real shame if I went to Tokyo without actually going into Tokyo, so we took the new Odakyu express to Shinjuku and went to the west side, checking out some game centers and shops. Next, tired of the crowds, we went to Ebisu, where after a 45-minute search we found another Freshness Burger. Then we went to Ebisu Beer Garden, but the museums were all closed, still we had a McFlurry (Makkufururii) and chilled out. Then back to Yokohama, where I had to take a shower and get my stuff packed for the return trip on Saturday

Recap
In a way, the biggest benefit to come out of the trip is peace of mind. I no longer feel the burning need to go back to Japan every five seconds. Like I said, after about two years, it starts to mess with your head. Still, I wish I could have stayed longer. But now I can look forward to JET, and other future trips to Tokyo, with a clear frame of mind.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:46 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006 8:17 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 June 2006
World Cup Countdown!!

I'm really looking forward to the World Cup. Team USA is the real wild card this year. They are coming off a strong performance in 2002 and experts say they have their best side ever. So they could play the role of spoiler and reel off some big wins, but they are also in a very tough opening round group where they could fail to advance. Either way, it should be pretty sweet!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:30 PM EDT
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Pain in the Back
My mom managed to injure her back pretty bad recently. All she can do it either lay down or stand up, she can't sit or bend over, and she's in almost constant pain. And the healthcare system is letting her down. She managed to see a doctor for an MRI and get some painkillers, but it will be almost a full three weeks until she can see the doctor again to get a diagnosis. Until then, there's not much for her to do other than wait and be in pain. Fortunately (knocks on wood), she tried a new medicine which seems to work better for her, so let's hope things continue to improve.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:25 PM EDT
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Monday, 29 May 2006
JET Placement Info
I almost forgot to mention this! I received my JET placement info. I'm going to Bungoono-shi, which is in Oita-ken, on Kyushu! Oita is known for its mountainous terrain and hotsprings (onsen). There is also a park famous for its wild roaming monkeys, which should be interesting . Plus, it looks like I am pretty close to a major JR line, so I should be able to explore pretty well.

It was pretty close to my first choice of Fukuoka, at least I should be only a couple of hours from there. Also Oita-shi has an airport, and Beppu has plenty of ferry services, so that should help other domestic travel.

Unfortunately, I have yet to hear directly from the local board of education, who will be my actual employers in Japan. Until then, the details will be pretty sketchy. But at least it appears that I got a cool placement.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:13 PM EDT
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Sunday, 21 May 2006
Hail-acious
Free ice for everyone! Check out these pics from a recent storm. Fortunately my car was in the garage at the time, so it wasn't damaged. Later this storm would spawn a tornado in Cabarrus County. Of course, I locked myself out while taking these pics.










These were slighty larger than quarters- does that make them golf ball sized? Who knows!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:17 AM EDT
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