And I'm back with much to write about. From a very snow-filled 450km bike ride fom Nagoya to the Nigata-Nagano border, to a great experience taking high-school students from the Hong Kong International School into the snow-covered mountains of Japan's Alps, to new living arangements that will hopefuly include lots and lots of winter shoveling madness.
For now just look at these two photos taken from the "shitami" when we checked out the course two days before the students arrived. When we were there we could see a total of 15 meters. Lucky for the students, it was so clear that they could see the Japan sea 25 kilometers away on the day they reached the peak at Mt. Ebira.
And I'm off! Who hooo! (tomorrow morning)
In a happy turn of events Tomoe will be able to join us for one day of the bike trip, and in an even happier turn of events, the weather forecast for these next few days finally calls for SNOW! This means snow during the course I will be working and, if we are lucky, snow during the bike trip! We may end up having to hitch-hike all the way to Nagano. How great would that be!
I leave you with a few photos from may previous Nagano winter mountaineering adventures. Lets hope that the kids I will be working with can get at least the same "winter" experience!
The guy in these photos is Shin-chan, the one making the bike tour with me from Nagoya to Nigata/Nagano border.
The photo below is from Otari, the mountain villiage I was in and will be in again from next week.
I always feel weird about posting my own photo, and when people say "You're always taking other people's photos. here let me take yours", I usually decline. I do have a few recent photos of myself though, and there are a few readers who may be interested to see what I look like (although the only ones I can think of are mom and dad, and they're coming to Japan in a few weeks), so rather than feeling weird several times, I have decided to post all the photos of me right here and now.
The other excuse is that today I trimmed my beard and shaved my head again. I took my two months in the mountains as an excuse to see how shaggy I could get without having to look "proper" for a meeting or what not. It seems that I am not the most "manly" guy around - I did not get that shaggy, just
If nothing else, this will serve as a reminder for me in the future not to try that again.
Unfortunately, I have no new photo of me after my touch up today.
So long have I waited. I don't know when it happened, but the other day I checked to see if Nelly McKay's new cd was out on iTunes (one year ago this month I was lamenting the non-release). Now she is mine, she is mine. Some of the songs sound like they are just recycled from her previous album, but the more I listen to it the more distinctive they become. So far I really love the two duets with Cyndi Lauper and K.D. Lang. I look forward to a duet album - and Nelly, if you still read this blog, I encourage you to do something with Regina Spector.
Wasting time web-surfing today I came across this photo that goes in my list of "what if it was me?" situations for self-examination. This one is double because I find myself wondering what I would do/feel if I were her or him - though I know I can never know.
Must appologize to mom and dad as I have done little to prepare for their arrival. I will be away for three weeks in March and only have three days to clean the house before they get here. (If I clean it now it will be all filled with bird poop again by the time they arrive anyway.)
Also, I heard today that the cherry blossoms are scheduled to open on March 22nd - a few weeks before they get here... As you can see in the photo above, the plum blossoms are already starting to bloom now - a month ahead of time.
As I mentioned I am planning a grand bike trip with a friend/co-worker (co-intern actually) from his home in Nagoya to Nagano. It should be great. Unfortunately Tomoe had to back out as she has to be in Tokyo on the 12th and there are just no buses from the remote (yet famous) village we plan to be in at that time.
I will be taking the night bus to Nagoya this Thursday to meet him early Friday morning. From there it is a long day's ride to Gujyo, famous for hosting one of the three big dance festivals of Japan. The next day we head up to world heritage site Shirakawago and Gokayama for a peak at traditional Japanese village life. Then we have a nice 150km ride to Itoigawa on the Japan Sea so we can wake up early the next morning to report for work at Oami (Hirawiwa) on the Nagano-Nigata border.
The hope is that Tomoe will be able to make it to Oami when my two weeks of work are done. Sure everyone in the village is nice and open and eager to talk to new-comers, and sure it is in a beautiful mountain setting, but the "best" part is that with the aging population and lack ofyoungsters in the town, un-occupied houses are plentiful and rent is CHEAP if not free. I just have to convince Tomoe to give up her life of luxury in out tiny Tokyo apartment for a life of pain an misery in a spacious farm house in the mountains complete with field.
The photos are from a short half-day trip to Takao for trail running this weekend. No, Tomoe was not really that happy.
My Outdoor/Environmental Education career just got a big boost. My photo is on the OutwardBound Japan blog. Now I just have to sit back and wait for the job offers (and the mountains of cash) to come rolling in.
All the recent photos have been from a five day trip to Yatsugatake. With this year's weather there was was less snow than usual and less wind than usual. This means less "challenge" and excitement, but on the other hand, the days we were walking the ridge were clearer than I ever expect to see. We could see forever.
- Planning some fun activities for my parents who will be visiting in April (with luck there will still be some cherry blossoms)
- Getting ready for a bike trip from Nagoya to the Japan Sea and down to Nagano with classmate from the course I just finished. He will be working with me on a winter OutwardBoundcourse in March.
- Trying to see if I can get any paying work, or if I have lost all credibility by being away for two months.
- Going to bed so I can get up early enough to go to Takao and do some trail running tomorrow morning.
Where to start? How can I summarize the forty days spent with OutwardBound Japan on a "Winter Japan Adventure Leadership Training" course (JALT)? The main value was not learning technical snow skills - that could have been done much cheaper and much more thoroughly elsewhere - rather, my biggest learning, and what I use to justify the cost, was what I learned from spending 40 days *totally* immersed in a completely Japanese setting.
Aside from three days when an instructor from OutwardBound Canada came to visit, I used no English. It was not a business situation involving a western home-office, or where a "western" point of view or management style is sought after by clients. It was not a one-on-one relationship with a single Japanese person, where both are equal and must strive to understand the other equally. Instead, I was the single outsider among a group of people who shared the same cultural norms and values. The pressure to conform to those norms (not explicit though somehow "understood" by the others) was enormous.
Unlike my experiences this summer in a similar course with OutwardBound in Washington, where people looked up to me (I was on average 10 years older) as a role-model and someone to learn from, in Japan I often felt not as a role-model, but as an alien - that person who always says something strange and is never quite on the same page as the rest of the group. I was someone who hindered their progress by raising issues they didn't care about or didn't want to confront.
In the past I have known people who always seemed to be living in a different world and I always wondered what it must feel like to be them. Now I know. Not so good.
While I stand by my own actions and behaviour, believing that the "western" way is the most effective and efficient ;P, I am also willing and eager to accept new theories about how people should behave. Everything I learned here was something I already "knew", but this was so much more concentrated. It was great. Maybe someday I will write about it. I am just trying to figure out how to fit so much into a few posts.