Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And I'm Off!

From August 1 to early September, I will be "out of the office" as I will be traveling to South East Asia for about a month.
I will be taking a little blog break while I head off...

to do this...


This will be the trip of a lifetime, as I hit up 4 countries in 5 weeks, with 4 different friends. 
It has taken some major coordinating, but all has worked out great so far. 
Here is a simplified version of where I will be going and with whom. 
I challenge you to try and follow.

Kiana and Megan to Japan for a week.
Megan to Korea/Kate and Kiana to Cambodia.
Megan, Kate and Kiana meet in Vietnam. Kris and Megan meet at Ho Chi Min airport.
Girls back to LA :(/Kate and Kris travel to Hanoi, Vietnam
Kate and Kris fly to Bangkok, then to Chiang Mai, then to Phuket. 
Kate heads to Korea to meet with Jessica for a week.
Kris to Cambodia.
Kate back to Japan early September.
Kris back to Japan a week later.

With me?!

I am sorry about the blog hiatus, but rest assured, when I come back in early September, I will bring with me pictures and stories of elephant rides, beautiful beaches, cooking classes, the killing fields, bamboo rafts, massages, zip-lining, and oh so much more! 

Hope you all have an excellent summer as well!

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Update

have been having an amazing weekend showing megan and kiana around tokyo, and a few of my other favorite parts of japan. taking them to school with me, the shibuya starbucks, harajuku, yoyogi park, and the brand new sky tree tower. i also got them to try my favorite taiko drum arcade game, and take the ever popular, purikura sticker pictures. 

the pictures are designed to be as kawaii as possible, as well as make your eyes rounder and skin flawless. and do they ever.

highlights included these extremely kawaiiiiii photos...


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Iphone Phun

as of late, a few of my favorite, random photos...

wine at dawn.
not exactly what you wanna see on your walk to the station after a night out.
i paused on a bike ride to a friend's house to snap this one.
clam riceballs.
oh! hello, real hamburgers.
caprese salad.
so rarely do i see fresh basil here. such a treat.
debs & sayaka.
i don't even know what to say about this.
summer flowers.
summer lovin, had me a blaaasssttt.
i have the coolest mom ever.
students cleaning the windows of the staff room, during the big clean before summer.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guests From The West

These lovely ladies arrived last night!
I met Kiana and Megan in high school, and regardless of different universities, and years on opposite US coasts, our friendship has remained as strong as ever. Based on the few pics we've taken so far, I have a feeling we are going to have a grand time together.

And then there were 3, 

[The Latest]

Google Search: Ebisu Photography Exhibit 
Tune: RESPECT By Aretha Franklin.
Accomplishment: A successful retrieval of my beautiful friends.
Obsessions: Dean & Deluca Lemonade.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Third Year Running

August 1, 2012 will mark my two year anniversary with Japan as well as the beginning of my third year in the land of the rising sun. A fact that blows my mind, every. single. day. My time here has absolutely flown by, and when I think back to all that I've experienced in just two short years, well, it simply amazes me. Between, a record setting natural disaster, the death of a parent, trips to India, Korea and other parts of Japan, earning the title of St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen, passing a basic Japanese Language Course, and learning to live alone, one can't help but grow up. 
As much as I tried to delay, becoming an adult, it seemed to sneak in with every life experience I had.

My time in Japan was clearly marked this afternoon.
All 8 of us Kamagaya ALTs have weekly meetings at our Board of Ed, but today's meeting proved extra special. As all 8 of us have decided to stay on for another year, the Board of Ed presented each of us with our official signed contract. As each one of us sat down with our contracts, we all said the same thing, "I can't believe it's been a year since we last did this."
In all fairness, JET did warn us about Japan being a time warp.
They were exactly right.

Since I had my snazzy new camera with me, I snapped a shot as everyone went up to get their contract.
(Except UK Kris, he was late. For shame, Kris.)

Meet the ALTs of Kamagaya!

Kim from Wisconsin.
Kate from California.
Kyle from Scotland/Holland. 
David from Ohio.
Chris from North Carolina. 
Olivia from New Zealand. 
Rachel from Alabama.
The gang, plus our favorite supervisor, Izuka Sensei.
1, 2, & 3,

[The Latest]

Google Search: Morgan Freeman 
Tune: 4 and 20 By Joss Stone.
Accomplishment: Getting up to go for a jog, even when I have every reason to sleep in.
Obsessions: My new little summer dress.

Monday, July 23, 2012

P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps

When I go home to southern California, one of my first pit stops is P.F. Changs. Their lettuce wraps are to die for. A few years ago, our local mall put in a P.F. Changs, and to say I was excited would have been an understatement.
I frequently order their appetizer of lettuce wraps as my meal.
Sharing with no one. 

On a whim the other day, as I was dreaming about the lettuce wraps on a 90 degree afternoon, I googled and found this recipe for the chicken covered wraps. I was even more thrilled when I realized I could get all the ingredients in Japan! 

I made them last week and they turned out better than I expected. 
I invited a friend over and we split a head of lettuce as we wrapped and inhaled each little wrap.

Wrapped Up,

[The Latest]

Must Read: 18 Reinterpreted Photos From the White House...from Buzzfeed. 5 and 14 are my fave.
Google Search: Simple Summer Desserts. 
Tune: Africa By Straight No Chaser.
Accomplishment: Knowing more of my schools song, during closing ceremonies.
Obsessions: Cold `hot chocolate` from the vending machine at the end of my alley.

Weekend Update

got a new camera on friday. get ready for some seriously upgraded pics!

highlights included...

[1] kamagaya's pear road
[2] a night at ann's house bar/cafe, made for a lovely night of live music and drinks
[3] the smallest dibutsu (big buddah) in japan





Thursday, July 19, 2012

School's Out For Summer

The last day of school today means closing ceremonies, fancy bento lunches, and big smiles all around.

During the ceremony, all three grades stood to sing a song, and all three sounded fabulous.
I took a video of the 3rd graders (14-15 year olds), mostly because they are my favorite class.  They were little first years when I started, so we have been at the school for the same amount of time. They sang a cappella, and did a great job!

You can see a tidbit of them singing here.
It`s so worth the watch!!!

I love that class.
A word from a few students.
A few words from the Principal.
A song from each grade.
Bring on friends from the states, sangria, alarm-less mornings, new exotic countries, tan lines, ocean dips, summer tunes, bright colors, sandals and tank tops.
Bring on new memories.
Bring on summaaaa.

Relaxin Ready,

[The Latest]

Basketball On Wheels

The other day, all the 3rd graders gathered in the gym for a special assembly. A professional basketball player, Nobuyuki Saito, was coming to talk to the kids about what it is like to play pro basketball...in a wheelchair. He rolled in and spoke to the kids for about 45 minutes. I didn't hear the speech, as my Japanese is limited and per Namiko's suggestion, I opted for the air conditioned teachers room rather than the sweltering gym, but I had planned to go in for part two of the assembly. 

*I'm sorry for the poor quality of some of pics, things were happening so fast, my iphone couldn't quite keep up.*
Star of the Show.
I walked into the gym just in time to see a few students get strapped into wheelchairs and get ready for a 4 on 4 wheel-y basketball game. The selected students were so excited to try out the wheelchairs, while those on the sidelines were praying they weren't selected to play. 

When I walked it, I was surprised to see the title of his speech on a banner over the stage. In bold English it said, Do Not or Cannot. Namiko then leaned over to me and explained that post his motorcycle accident, Nobuyuki went to Florida to get treatment, and as a result spoke fluent English. So rarely in little Kamagaya, is there a fluent English speaker around, at least one I don't know, 
I was dying to talk to him.
Speech Title.
As I was pondering all this, and not really paying attention, one of my favorite little girls ran up to me with a bib, encouraging me to put it on. I hesitated and tried to politely refuse. Then she went on to tell me in Japanese that it was a sensei game, and I, as she reminded me, was Keito SENSEI. 
Touche, Aya. Touche.

I put up my hair, put on my bib, and walked to the center of the gym amongst shocked and cheering students. A lady came over to buckle me in as I tried to situate my skirt so it wouldn't blow up. 
She chuckled and asked if I would be ok.
I had no idea.

For a few minutes I rolled around getting used to the chair. It was built for sports, so it was light weight, and easy to swivel. There was a wheel stemming from the back of the chair that prevented you from flipping over when shooting the ball. I was surprised to discover that it was similar to snowboarding and skateboarding in that, if I was in motion, I could control the chair by simply leaning from side to side. I was having a great time getting used to the chair and was thrilled to start the little 10 minute game. This is going to be fun! I thought. Then quickly reminded myself that the reason it will be fun, is that I will be able to get up and walk out of here.
Big picture Kate, big picture.

Before the game, Nobuyuki wheeled up next to me and asked, in perfect English, if I spoke English. I said yes, and he asked if this was going to be my first time playing in a wheelchair, I told him yes, and he assured me it was just the same as regular basketball. 
I wasn't sure that was entirely true, but I told him I thought I could handle it.

The game started and was great fun! Obviously we didn't dribble, but instead put the ball in our laps and rolled as fast as possible to the basket. I had the opportunity to take one shot and totally air ball-ed it. It took way more strength to get it to the backboard that I was prepared for. A few other times I had trouble changing directions as quickly as I wanted and wound up doing donuts. 
Though, I would be lying if I said that wasn't my favorite part.

When it was all over, the students gave Nobuyuki and his crew flowers to show their appreciation, and everyone filed out and went back to class. I hung around with a few of the student council kids to chat with everyone. Nobuyuki again rolled up to me and asked where I was from, kicking off a 15 minute conversation. He explained that he lived in Florida for a few years, then moved on to Mobile, Alabama. Instantly reminding me of this YouTube clip. 
Which I then proceeded to tell him to look up.
I asked him how that was, and he replied with a deadpanned... boring. I chuckled.
He went on to say that he was so thankful that he didn't pick up the southern accent, and did I know that there are a lot of red necks down there?! I laughed right out loud. 
While we talked, I accidentally brushed my right thumb against my skirt and let out an involuntary, ow!
I looked down to see a massive blister. Think rug burn. Apparently I had been using my thumb as a brake. He asked if I was ok, and I mentioned that I got a blister from all my wheeling. 
He chuckled. As if he didn't know, I mean, really. 
Then he held up his left hand, where he was missing part of his index finger, and says, 
"Ya, I know, this happened to me."
"WHAT!" I shrieked, "from wheeling around?!"
"Jussstttt kidding. No this happened from my accident too."

Almost had me there, Nobuyuki.

He had such a great personality and sense of humor. 
He was truly an inspiration. 

Game On.
2 Points!
Thank You Flowers.
Student Government.
Casual Conversation.

Wheelin' and Dealin'

[The Latest]

Must Read: 10 Things Americans Don't Know About America...from PostMasculine. 
Any American who has visited or lived abroad will most likely be nodding their head the entire time.
Google Search: Which came first, the chicken or the egg. 
Turns out there is an answer now, it's the chicken. I lost this bet. 
Tune: Take a Walk By Passion Pit.
Accomplishment: A well executed lesson.
Obsessions: Color Map Countdown.


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