Sunday, November 29, 2009

From one holiday to the next

On Friday night, I had a party with a few friends.

A stuffing party!!

In the Sease family, it's tradition to make a double batch of the buttery goodness the night before Thanksgiving, and then eat it that night by the bowlful, as if it were popcorn. :)

I love stuffing and stuffing parties, so I thought it'd be fun to have people over the night before Thanksgiving dinner and share stuffing with them.

Takenori on bread duty.

Harriet and Tomo (a new friend) in charge of cutting the onion and bok choy (instead of celery).

Dinner at Julian's house the next night was fantastic, with about 25 friends there, and lots of amazing food, including a delicious turkey--a rare treat in Japan--ordered and prepared by Oliver.

A few Japanese friends came too, including Masa Takahashi, one of the English teachers I work with at Okawame Jr. High...

I was so glad that he could come!

With Thanksgiving over now, I've already transitioned into Christmas! I spent this afternoon listening to Christmas music and putting up decorations in my apartment. :)

Actually, I was kind of already in the Christmas mood before Thanksgiving since:
#1 It snowed last week!
#2 If it's going to be this cold, I might as well be getting excited about Christmas. Right?
#3 We sang "Silent Night" in one of my classes the other day, straight from the textbook!
and #4 I put up a Christmas-themed bulletin board at Misaki Jr. High on Thursday...

I was taking a photo of my finished product when Eiki jumped in the picture.

Well, that's all for now.
I'm signing off. And singing off: La la la la la, la la la la. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Near. Far. Whereeeever you are..."

...You are here in my heart.

And I'm thinking of you this Thanksgiving! :)

I wish I could say that I wrote the following poem, but that would be a lie. This is an e-mail forward my dad sent me, and I think it's pretty cute...

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving,
But I just couldn't sleep.
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned -- the dark meat and white,
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.
Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.
So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.
Gobbled up turkey and butter potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
'Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.
I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky,
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
"Happy eating to all -- pass the cranberries, please!"

May your stuffing be tasty.
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes 'n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delcious.
May you pies take the prize.
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs!

Today is just a normal day here in Kuji, but I'm really looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and eating all kinds of yummy food this weekend with the other ALT's and Japanese friends. I'm guessing that about half of the people at the party/dinner will be non-Americans who don't usually celebrate Thanksgiving. (I'll write about the dinner next time.)

The other day when I was embellishing a map of Iwate prefecture to share on my blog, I also worked on map of the United Kingdom, for Tomoki. (As a reminder, Tomoki is the eager English student I tutor twice a week.) He is very interested in the fact that the ALTs from the U.K. have different accents than the American teachers, and he loves to talk in a British accent. :) He wanted to see where each ALT from the U.K. is from...

So now you know, too. :)

It's been a while since I've written about Tomoki, but I still spend a lot of time with him, and he still cracks me up! I just love how fascinated he is about English and different accents.

I'll end this post by sharing a YouTube video that I showed Tomoki a couple of weeks ago, and it just blew him away... :)

To read my newest post in Keep Shining, click here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A little weekend getaway

Hello, class! "Dana Sensei" has a little geography lesson prepared for you today. :) Let's begin...

Japan is divided into 47 jurisdictions, called prefectures. As a reminder, I live in Iwate prefecture. Here's a map...

Side note: The islands above the white line on the map are all part of Okinawa prefecture, which is actually quite a ways southwest of Japan's four main islands -- Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.

As you can see, Iwate is in the north, (where it's getting very cold!! by the way)
and is the second biggest prefecture. A few more things about Iwate prefecture, while I'm on the subject:
  • Iwate is one of six prefectures in the Tohoku region ("tohoku" means northeast) of Honshu, Japan's largest island.

  • Iwate is a rural prefecture, as you've probably noticed from many of my pictures.

  • People in Iwate have their own dialect of Japanese that's unique. In fact, when someone from Iwate is on national news, there is often subtitles so the people in the south can understand!

  • Morioka is the capital of Iwate. I've mentioned it before, but thought it was about time I give you a visual of where it is in reference to Kuji...
Kuji is in the northeast of of Iwate, along the coast. (I've put a yellow star by it.) To get to Morioka (circled in green), it's a 2.5 hour drive on scenic roads, and part of the drive winds through mountains. The other "big city" I sometimes go to (and write about) is Hachinohe (circled in blue). It's a 1.5 hour drive north on highway 45, and is the nearest place to go for bowling, a mall, or a movie theater! See? I really am in a rural area.

Ok, now to finally share about my little weekend getaway...

On Saturday morning, Jarlath (from Ninohe -- which you can see on the map is almost directly west of Kuji) and I took a scenic four-hour train ride down the coast, from Kuji to Ofunato, where our buddy Bobby lives. (It's the red route on the map.) :)

A view from the train.

We made it to Bobby's trompin' grounds!

While walking around, we spotted Yoda with a cowboy hat, and Jarlath wanted a picture. :)

Bobby was showing us the lovely library when we stumbled upon some Rotary Club members in kimonos serving tea to passers-by like us, to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The lady in the picture with us was SO nice, and her English was quite good.

At the town's main temple.

Besides taking a town tour, we chilled out with Bobby at his place, ate some sushi, sang some karaoke, played some video games, and watched a movie (The Fugitive. I recommend it.)

'Twas a nice time. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Because I had so much fun last time...

I'm going to write about food again. :) Well, not exactly. I just want to show you what was served for school lunch at Osanai Elementary the other day...

Do you see the fish!? With eyes!?! I've had them before, but never for school lunch!

And yes, that is about the most blogworthy/newsworthy thing that has happened since I've been back from Thailand. It's been life in Japan as usual for the last (nearly) two weeks.

Well, I guess another newsworthy thing is that it SNOWED on Wednesday!! Oh, how I miss the tropical weather of Thailand. I long for it as I curl up next to my kerosene heater in my *ten layers of clothing.

*Ok, ten is a slight exaggeration, but it's COLD here!

Anyway, I digress. Back to fish...

I have another picture that I took last Saturday when I volunteered at preschool:

Paper sushi that the kids made during craft time. So cute!

Those preschoolers are ADORABLE...

"Hey there." :)

See? We have a theme and cute kids.

I have a video of some cute -- but hyper! -- first graders from Osanai Elementary. I don't know what got into them! I'll blame it on the fish they ate for school lunch. ;)

* * *
To see my latest entry in Keep Shining, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Singin' hot, hot, hot..."

WARNING: Contents in picture are spicier than they appear.

As promised, my fifth and final blog post on Thailand is about a subject I'm very passionate about...


Even though a lot of it set my mouth on fire, it turns out I'm a fan of Thai cuisine. And I have a new love...

Mangoes served with white sticky rice in coconut sauce!!
Mmmmmm. Sooo delicious and not the least bit spicy.

Much to my delight, I ate fresh tropical fruit every. single. day. :D

A cup of pineapple or a plate of mangoes from a little stand cost only 20 Thai baht, which is not even 75 cents!

In addition to eating a lot of fruit, I also drank it. In fact, I've discovered the secret to eating spicy food. Are you ready for me to let you in on the secret?

It's simple: Drink milkshakes. I can handle any kind of spicy curry or whatever else as long as I have a milkshake or two to go with it. :)

Or in Oliver's case, fresh coconut milk...

I ordered a peach ice tea to drink with lunch {the spicy chicken curry pictured at the tippy top of this blog post}, and then I had to order a strawberry milkshake later to help put out the fire in my mouth.

I think this one is a pineapple milkshake. :) The best shake I had on the trip was a combination pineapple/coconut -- like a pina colada. YUM.

Just because the milkshakes were always so fantastic, I even ordered one to go with a not-one-single-bit-spicy breakfast...

Banana milkshake and super sweet banana pancakes. {Which were really more like crepes than pancakes. Which was really just fine with me :)}

While we were in Chiang Mai at the beginning of the trip, Oliver, Liz and I took a Thai cooking class! We began at the market, where we got a lesson on popular ingredients.

Many different kinds of vegetables are used in Thai dishes.

After a little orientation at the market, we rode to our classroom, where we were given step-by-step instructions on how to prepare three different foods.

Liz looking cute while slicin' and dicin'.

"It's gettin' hot in here..."

After 45 minutes of cooking, we had quite a feast!

Here's the meal:
  • A noodle dish called pad thai on the left. It was slightly spicy, but absolutely delicious. (If I do say so myself, haha.)
  • Rice in the middle. The rice is Thailand is very similar to the white sticky rice in Japan, only the grains are a tad bit longer. Like in Japan, rice is a staple at each meal.
  • Green curry on the right. Usually it's very spicy, but I made mine only a little spicy.
  • A little bowl of mango & coconut rice for dessert. This was my introduction to this delightful combination.
    We also made vegetable soup, but it's not pictured since we ate that as an appetizer, in the middle of cooking.
Well, I'm officially hungry now! I'm off to eat dinner...
without a pineapple/coconut milkshake to go with it, unfortunately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"This is the island in the sun..."

The third and final destination of our trip was my favorite: Koh Samui.

In Thai, "koh" is "island" and "samui" means "coconut." Coconut Island. :) How tropical does that sound!?

True to its name, there were lots of palm trees with coconuts...

One of the highlights of the trip for me was when we rented motorbikes (surprisingly easy to do!) and rode around the island...

The view from the road:

We stopped biking a few times in order to eat, take a few pictures of the view and go shopping. I bought an outfit to add to my collection of tropical clothing. :)

During the second day on the island, we signed up for a program that included: an elephant show, an elephant ride, a monkey show, a Thai boxing demonstration, swimming at a waterfall and canoeing.

Elephant show:
Oliver got kissed by an elephant (!!) when he volunteered during the show. According to him it was smelly and gross.

Thirty-minute elephant ride:

During the ride, our guide on the elephant made us each a necklace and ring out of leaves. Cool!

Monkey show:

After the show, we could have a photo taken with a monkey. :)


After taking a jeep to the jungle and then hiking up to the waterfall, we got to swim at the bottom of it...

"Oliver, me!!" haha

Canoe ride:

The time on the island was a great balance of relaxing and adventure. It was hard to leave and come back to cold and rainy Japan.

In fact, it's official that I'll be going back to Thailand during Christmas break! One week was not long enough there. Originally, we were going to spend a little bit of time on the trip volunteering at an orphanage. But since we didn't do that this time, that's what I'll be doing during Christmas. Looking forward to it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seeing the sites of Bangkok

Follow Liz, Oliver and me and we'll take you around the capital of Thailand...
Ready? Ok...

Starting from our hostel with map in hand, our destination is the Grand Palace. Along the way, we stop to take photos of random Buddha statues...

Thumbs up. Cheese. :)

After avoiding the people who tried to scam us into taking their "special tour," (not fallin' for it, fellas) we've arrived at our destination. Make sure your shoulders are covered and you're not wearing shorts before entering the palace grounds...

"Hi, I'm Dana, and I'll be your tour guide today. Here we have the gorgeous Grand Palace."

Don't mess with this guy.

Next stop: The giant reclining Buddha. And here he is...

From the vantage point of his giant foot.

Walking around the area, we see a school, and a teacher who looks less than thrilled that I'm taking this picture...

Up that a Buddhist priest on a cell phone?!?

Yes, indeed it is.

It's well past lunch time now, and we're hungry! So we hop in a tuk tuk (small taxi), headed for China Town to find something to eat...

The tuk tuk driver is smart to wear a mask. Bangkok is not a very clean city.

We're not very impressed with China Town, but we find a mall, where we eat lunch at the food court. Then we take a taxi to the flower market to check that out...

Back at our hostel, it's time to relax before taking a night train to Koh Samui, the last part of our trip. This vacation is flying by!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"We're soooarin', flyyyyin'..."

(Now singing High School Musical. Again.)

The song/title will make sense later on, when I write about one of the high adventure things (literally) that Liz, Oliver and I did in Chiang Mai. Stay tuned.

When we first got to the city, we decided that after all the traveling, we needed a massage. :) Massages are very popular--and cheap!--in Thailand, and we collected all kinds of spa brochures in the airport. We went all out and got one that was two and a half hours long(!!): thirty minutes foot massage, an hour of Thai massage (which is kinda like yoga, I thought), and then an hour of aromatherapy. I had the same lady the whole time (what a trooper!), and she ended the whole thing by braiding my hair up in a Thai style...

How appropriate that the back of my shirt said, "Just fine." :)

After we were completely relaxed, we did some sightseeing in Chiang Mai...

A look inside one of the temples we went to.

More statues. Lots of statues everywhere.

During our second day in Chiang Mai, we took an hour bus ride into the jungle, where we went went soarin' (and flyin') on a zipline!! Here are a few pictures and a video from the day-long zipline experience...

Oliver getting ready to use the wooden break, upon arriving to the platform.

Liz being lowered down to the next platform.

Our group...

Besides Oliver, Liz, and me, there were three people from England with us and four guides.

The first part is Oliver on the zipline, and then I attempted to take video while soaring....

In total, there were 22 platforms, so we did the zipline 22 times! The longest one was 300 meters. Overall, I had a really great time feeling like Tarzan.

Err...I mean Jane. :)