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November 30, 2010

Active tours in China and Taiwan

This is an unsolicited promotion for a new guide company in Taiwan, Little Po Adventures, run by a climber and writer of a blog that I have been following. I don't know if she even knows or remembers me, but I have been following her hiking and climbing blog for several years now. What she is trying to do is exactly what I am trying to make proffitable. (she too was a programmer/computer dork before her transformation). If you are looking for an off-the-beaten path trip in Taiwan or China, check her out and let me know how it goes.

If I ever get to Taiwan, I will certainly try a trip with her. Her technical knbowledge of rock-clibing, and hiking, and outdoorsieness is far beyone mine. I also envy that she is actually a local of the area she is guiding in - yet is fluent in English as well. Dang. I loose. The only thing I have is a village populated by samurai from six-hundred yeas ago, but no samurai remain.

Anyway. Even without knowing her in person, I am convinced that this is a great active vacation option.

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As far as photos... I just got my new camera in the mail today. I know, I know, I am a poster-boy for sustainability, having two defunct cameras and one shiny new (used) one in my possession. In my defense though, the first camera broke due to moisture from snow. The second camera was purchased on Yahoo auction and it turned out it was broken when it came to me. I managed to use parts from my old camera to patch it up - again and again.

A year later (a few weeks ago) it finally became too much of a pain that I basically stopped using it. I still use the film cameras, but my mooched film scanner does not have a power cable, and the cable costs more than a new (used) scanner.

I am happy with my latest purchase though. It is still the same old model that I got many many years ago, and there are many better models available, but this was cheap, and given my history with breaking stuff...

These are the first photos of Mona after I took the camera out of the box.

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November 24, 2010

I Guess I Can't Complain

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It only took a few minutes, and some cool autumn breezes on my glistening naked body as I slowly stepped out of the steaming outdoor hot-spring to gently wash with lubricus soap, to realize that I am spoiled.

As I was sitting there, only thirty minutes away from our house, it dawned on me how spoiled I have become, and how frickin amazing my life is. That is not to say there isn't skit-load* of skit* going on ("skit" is Swedish for "s*it"(h), but I didn't want to offend sensitive non-swedish readers). There is a skit-load of skit that never makes it to my blog, but after a day of rest (where the only work I did was pick persimmons), following a three-day trip (work-related) with Tomoe and Mona. I found myself thinking "Skit! I had to go thirty minutes away to soak in an outdoor hot-spring because our local one is closed on Tuesdays!"

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As I was soaking though, I realized I got it pretty good. Now I just need money.

At least, though, we had enough to take a trip to the Noto Peninsula where we are thinking about having a bike trip. Frankly, though, I am unimpressed. It is a famous area, and we get lots of requests to do trips there. So far we have turned them down. I strongly suggest going someplace a little less touristy - such as our village (of course).

Along the way, however, we found that we enjoy Toyama City, and despite it being a city, we both agree that if we are to live in a skity city, it should be Toyama.

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We went there for a seminar Tomoe was attending, but it just so happened that the day before the seminar a friend of mine (who I only met in person that night, after the concert and three years of email/blog commenting) was singing in a concert - Disney on Classic, backed by the Tokyo Philharmonic - and he had gotten us complementary tickets. Skit yeah! Mona LOVED it. she was banging her head on the glass partition (the concert hall did not allow children under five. We knew but brought her along and hoped her cuteness would be enough to get her in. They put us in the directors box-seat with glass partition) the entire time - at least when she wasn't waving her hands in furious pleasure.

And I even found myself crying at their performance of "Beauty and the Beast."

The day after the concert we happened across a great yasukoi dance festival where groups of young people (and old) put together dance groups and parade around the town in competition. I wish I had video, but I guess that is what youtube is for.

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November 10, 2010

Harvest Festival

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Yesterday - or was it two or three days ago? - we had our local harvest festival. Technically most of our farm work is supposed to be done and we are to be preparing for winter. Woe is us.

I just finished harvesting the soba (buckwheat) yesterday, and have it laying out in the rain to dry. The soy beans are still all in their shells, we have not sent any rice out yet, and we never got around to making the rice-husk charcoals for next-year's fields. By the time we got to the rice center, almost all of the husks had been taken.

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Needless to say I did not feel much like celebrating the end of work with so much left to do, but this is my favorite festival of the year because of the fall colors, cool breeze and free flowing beer. It is basically just another big picnic with the neighbors. We have several of them each year. One in spring, one in winter, and one in fall.

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Window Lickin' Good

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Mona's favorite part of sleeping in the van - waking up to steamed up windows to lick.

November 09, 2010

Week Away

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You can see how far behind on my photos I am because I am just now posting photos from last springs planting festival, when just two days ago we had our harvest festival. The photos are still in the camera.

As part of our long needed break from this hellish countryside village, we spent a night in Nagoya at Tomoe's parents. I took the oportunity to visit the local developer/camera shop near her house with a great owner who loves that I bring in old cameras. I also love that he tells me how to use them. He also developes the film and burns me a CD - something that my local camera shop can't do, hence me having half-year old undeveloped film.

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This past week we went to Iida where Tomoe had a workshop she has been wanting to attend for a long time now. I know three hours is nothing for folks in Michigan (I used to commute two hours to and from school for a year), but here it is a big deal - especially when highway toll fares are $60.

While she was attending the seminar, Mona and I were lucky enough to stumble upon an extremely friendly Australian bloke (is that spelled right?) who told us about what must truly be the most amazing high-school orchestra in Japan. They were performing in a room adjacent to Tomoe's boring seminar, so Mona and I chose to watch that.

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Anyway, we continued on to our friends house - the man in this photo from last year, hauling logs to grow shitake mushrooms. For anyone interested, he is a WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) host, and always looking for help in exchange for a roof and great meals. Not just with farming, but with packaging and delivery as well. He prefers Japanese speakers (his English is, err... rusty), but is flexible depending on the comlexity of the work at hand.

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So it just happened that he had to go to Gifu that weekend to teach a course at a local trade school focusing on forestry and wood. The school has courses for forestry workers (cutting trees), architects who use sustainable harvested wood, and artisans / crafts people.

We were lucky enough to join them (after another three hour drive) as they went out into the forest for two days to show the non-forestry students where the wood they use comes from. We discussed how to select which trees to cust down and which to leave, an extremely loose, yet mind-tiring process which I should probably write about when I have the photos to accompany.

A night of drinking and wild boar, fresh home grown veggies, and all-around great cooking at an inn in the mountains ensued. I wish I could remember the name of the inn. (did I mention there was drinking?)

After the class we spent the night at our friend's friend's home an hour or so away. He is Japanese, his wife is Australian. I have joked about it before, but I am more and more thinking that I should become Australian. I just have never met a nicer, more relaxed bunch of people.

So this is getting boring. To wrap it up, we went to Nagoya (another two hours) visited the Apple Store to find that my macbook is f'd. Visited an electronic store to find that the scanner I recieved (and am extremely thankful for!) is probably not worth the cost of a cable to actuyally use it, and finally made it to Tomoe's house were I could finally relax and get some old film developed and take some photo-strolls around the big city.

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November 05, 2010

Dorobo

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Just got back from a four-day trip to learn about sustaiable forestry, visit old and new friends, and let Mona play with her cousin and grandparents. More about that later (maybe)

The big news is that when we got home we found our chicken coup devoid of hens (only the rooster remains) and whats more, our cockatiels, Awii, Klee, and Kiri are gone - save a few feathers.

After an extensive search of the house, and plans to call Encyclopedia Brown, eventually, as we were about to go to bed, we stumbled apon a cat hiding in our closet. We don't know yet how he/she got in, but somehow it was smart enough to know that we were out of town and took the opportunity to raid the house.

So, today we honor the lives of some really awesome birds. Awii has been with me for longer than I can remember. I purchased him when Tomoe was away for several monthes for school, and I was feeling lonely.

Klee was purchased when Tomoe was away for business for six monthes. It was also just about the time Awii started humping my hand, so I thought he needed another outlet.

Kiri was the only child, out of four, that remained.

Tomoe is going to kill the cat, but we also plan on getting a cat of our own to protect our home.

There are no strewn-about feathers from the hens, so I assume that they are somewhere on the loose. There were nine eggs, so I know they at least survuved three nights, so maybe they will turn up in the neighbors field tomorrow morning.

The cat in the photo is not the cat that killed our cockatiels.

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