Monday, February 25, 2013

Out of the Office

Be back Monday. 
Hope you all are having a lovely week!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Read & Run

Today at school we did Read & Run, an absolute favorite with the students. 
Here's how it goes...
The kids get in their lunch groups and close their eyes for a few minutes while Keima and I run around the room taping up scrambled sentences in sneaky places. When the kids "awaken" they send a runner from their group to seek out a hint. The kid has to memorize the scrambled words and report back to the group. Together, the kids try to make a sentence, once they have Keima or I will check it, if it's correct they send another runner to find another hint. Ultimately, the groups are competing against each other for stamps on their participation sheet so it gets pretty competitive. If you can envision all this set to The Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack, well then, you might as well have been right there in second period with us!

When Keima drew a layout of the classroom, he was sure to add him and me...and my bun.

Read & Ran,

                                                                          [The Latest]

Google Search: Oscar Wilde.
Tune: Little Lion Man By Mumford & Sons. 
Accomplishment: Some great lessons today.
Obsessions: Pho.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Photo-dump: Snowboarding

Way back in January, I went snowboarding with a lovely little crew. We took an over night bus from Tokyo to Nozawaonsen to enjoy three full days of snowboarding and skiing. I only had my camera for part of the trip, but I thought I'd throw up a couple pictures if you'd like to see.

The onsen town is beautiful and quaint, crawling with Tokyo-ites who want to get away for a weekend, as well as Kiwis and Aussies who have flown up for the fresh powder. 

We happened to be there during Nozawaonsen's annual, extremely intense, Fire Festival. 
Here is a basic description...
"One of Japan’s Top Three Fire Festivals, this intense event is held every year on January 15th. The 42 and 25 year old men of the village take on special roles. A massive tower is erected as a petition for the health and growth of first born sons. At night, villagers rush at the tower with torches. The 25 year olds fight them off at the base and the 42 year olds protect the top. The event climaxes in a massive bonfire as the tower succumbs to the flames. The festival’s power and energy have to be seen to be believed."
-from Go! Nagano

We watched as the 25 year olds chose their wood from the top of the mountain and ran with it (for hours) to the base of the mountain. The men rotated between helping carry the wood, and passing out sake to onlookers.

Fire and Ice,

                                                                     [The Latest]

Google Search: Pinterest.
Tune: Little Lion Man By Mumford & Sons. 
Accomplishment: Lots of cooking yesterday.
Obsessions: Koala cookies.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Norm For Me, A Chuckle For You 7

These little stories that fall under The Norm For Me, A Chuckle For You are some of my favorite to write. Sometimes it takes me a while to realize that something that doesn't even phase me as being weird, makes for a great story to anyone not living in Japan. This time around, I don't have a story, but rather a few little random things that have happened to me over the course of the past few days that I don't want to forget. 

During class while the kids were writing in their conversation journals:
A girl raised her hand, so I went over to her. She kept saying a word in Japanese that I didn't know, wanting the English translation. I made a confused face and smiled, she laughed and rethought her question. Finally she let out, ipaisakana?! and a chuckle. A lot of fish? I told her to go get a dictionary and I looked up the word aquarium and asked her if that was what she was trying to say. She lit up. Mission accomplished, high-fives everywhere. 

She wanted me to know that her sister is going to the aquarium in Okinawa on a school trip. 
Fun stuff!

On the train:
I had my ipod in, staring out the window. An older man got on, looked at me for a second too long and I saw it. I saw the wheels turning, he wanted to try out his English, I could sense it. Usually I am pretty go with the flow with this kind of stuff, but this day I really wasn't in the mood. I politely continued to stare out the window. He took off his watch, and positioned himself in my line of sight, before yelling so all the train could hear, 
"Excuse me, do you know the time?!"
I took out one of my ear buds and said, as politely as possible, 
"I am sorry I don't. I don't have a watch." 
Which was true, and my cell phone was in my bag, and there were a million other people around and, oh by the way, a clock on the platform he just came from. I just really didn't have the energy. But then he got creative. 
"Ahhh ok. Hmmm. What time do you think it is?"
I gave him somewhat of a blank stare. 
You want me to guess the time? That is how desperate we are?
"I'm sorry, I really don't know, maybe 5:30? Maybe just check at the next station."
"Good idea!!!"
One more stop and he was off, and I was back to staring out the window listening to Macklemore.

In a cafe:
I was reading, and sipping ginger-apple tea YUM while waiting for a friend to get to the station so we could go to dinner when a couple decided to sit behind me and start speaking...English. I was surprised, annoyed and curious all at once. I can't tell you what happened in the last few chapters of my book, but I can tell you that the man was prepping this lady for an interview and this lovely little woman knows how to do equity loans, but is nervous about potential conference calls in English to London or Zurich, she studied English in Canada, but hates Toronto, step one of her five step interview is tomorrow with someone in HR...

Grading papers:
My third years were asked to write about a famous place in Chiba. The vast majority talked about Disneyland, not surprising as it is extremely popular here and there is Disney merchandise all over the place. What was surprising, however, was their inability to spell the ever-famous home of Mickey and Minnie.

Here is what some of them came up with...
Disney Land
Disny Land
Dizniy Land
Dizniy Lund
Diesney land
disney rand

Getting on my bike to head home after school:
A few of my favorite boys walk by, all trouble makers but decent English students because they aren't too shy.
We have a great relationship.
They turned to face me then jumped back, acting surprised to see me, 
"Oh! Hellllooooooooooo Keito. Helloooo! Helloooo! Today is Monday!"
I laughed, "I know! Hello, boys!"
We passed each other and I got on my bike. I yelled a "Good-bye!" in their direction. 
Which promptly stared a chorus of good-byes and sayonaras
And one, not-so-quiet, "I love you."
I yelled back, 
"Oh! THANK YOU!!!!"
They doubled over in laughter. 
See ya tomorrow kiddos. 

All in a day... or a few, 

                                                                        [The Latest]

Must Read: Teachers Are Workers Not Martyrs... The Japan Times.
Google Search: Askance.
Tune: We Come Running By Youngblood Hawke. 
Accomplishment: A few rather productive days at work.
Obsessions: Homemade tortilla soup. Again.

Monday, February 18, 2013

2 Ingredient Cookies

I know, I didn't believe the title of the recipe either when I read it!
But it's true! 
Well kinda...

Just to be clear...this is a pile of cookies, not just one.
I used two old bananas, a cup-ish of oats, which is really all the recipe called for, but I went ahead and added a few more things. I threw in a handful of chocolate chips and two handfuls of walnuts. Clearly I didn't feel like dirtying my measuring spoons. Then I mashed everything until the banana was all mixed in, then baked at 350F for 15 minutes, or until I thought the banana looked more baked then mushy.

I made these little cookies last night, and while they turned out a little more like banana bread and a little less like cookie, they still were a unique little treat.

The actual recipe with step by step pictures is here. 

Perfect over-ripe banana solution,

                                                                     [The Latest]

Google Search: Yoani Sanchez.
Tune: We Come Running By Youngblood Hawke. 
Accomplishment: Watching my 2nd years answer some challenging reading comprehension questions. 
Obsessions: Homemade tortilla soup.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend Update

Highlights included...
[1] A nifty view of the tracks from the 1st car on my last train home Friday night. 
[2] Saturday night was spent at the ever swanky Tokyo American Club to celebrate a Scottish Burns Supper. The black-tie event included plenty of haggis, whiskey and ceilidh dancing to go around. 
[3] A little walk through Hibiya Park
[4] A Sunday evening German pretzel and beer. 


* I apologize for the poor quality of photos, the lighting at the dinner was a little too romantic for iphone.



 Hope you all had a great weekend as well!


Thursday, February 14, 2013


Just a few words to make you chuckle. 
Happy Friday!

You know who you are!!!!


                                                                     [The Latest]

Must Read: In N Out in Japan...Japan Probe. It was just for a day...:( 
Google Search: Koch Brothers.
Tune: Little Talks By Monsters and Men. 
Accomplishment: Answering quite a few emails. 
Obsessions: Chocolate covered strawberries.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Happy Valentine's Day!
I've said this before, but for whatever reason I really love this little heart-filled holiday. I totally get in the spirit and do my best to spread a little love to the people around me. This morning I delivered little Valentines I made to all the other ALTs in Kamagaya before meeting up with Kris for a Valentine's day breakfast at McDonald's. That Egg McMuffin had been callin my name for weeks. All day I have been chillin in my red sweater (obviously) and poppin chocolate and gummy bears like it's my job. This evening I have big plans to make chocolate-covered strawberries for my adult class to enjoy while we discuss the differences and similarities between Valentine's Day in the US and Japan. 
Hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day with whoever you choose to celebrate it with!


[The Latest]

Google Search: 400F to C.
Tune: Wishes and Stars By Harper Simon
Accomplishment: A jog in the ridiculous wind yesterday. 
Obsessions: GIRLS.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Friendly Shout Out

I don't mean to brag, but...
I have really cool friends. Quite a few in fact. Doing quite a few really cool things. 

Some are living and working in nifty places like Australia, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan.
One even works on a cruise ship and travels just about everywhere!
Some are back in school studying to be things like doctors, lawyers, masters in education and PhD's in Spanish. 
Some work in big kid cities, for big kid companies and live in big kid apartments. 
For some, bells will be ringing as they work on planning the best day of their lives.
And some are still working on the next step, cough, cough.

As of late, two in particular have done some pretty neat things that people need to hear about. 

Megan Groh, one of my good friends from college, recently started her own business!
Little Details California is a Day of Wedding Coordinating resource.
Her website explains it better than I ever could...

A little about the business
Little Details is a Day Of Wedding Coordinating resource designed to help your ideas and thoughts come to fruition.   Some of the brides and grooms I have worked with know exactly what they want, when they want it,  and how to get it done. They simply need me to make sure that the day runs smoothly and that they have a point of contact that understands what they want and can get it done.   Other brides and grooms need help deciding their vendors, setting up their budget and deciding what would work the best for their day.  Some have been right in the middle.   Little Details is here to help!
-taken from Little Details CA

So proud of you Megan!

Jenny Byrne, a friend from high school, recently helped open a new restaurant in Oakland, CA.
Jenny and a few of her former Chez Panisse employees branched off to open their own ramen restaurant, appropriately called, The Ramen Shop. The place has only been open since January, but has gotten some seriously good reviews. 
Check em out here, here and a yelp review here.      
When I was up in San Francisco just before Christmas last year, The Ramen Shop, was having it's soft-opening, aka play restaurant. Jen invited us over for a meal and I can honestly tell you, as someone living Japan, it was some of the freshest ramen I've ever had. Seriously, go. 

Big congrats to Jen and The Ramen Shop team!

Even made the cover of this month's San Francisco Magazine. 
Happy Ramen-ers!
The Ramen Shop

5812 College Avenue
Oakland, CA
Ph: 510-788-6370

4PM to midnight, except Tuesdays
No reservations

Twitter: @ramenoakland

So proud of you two, 

                                                                           [The Latest]

Must Read: Don't Get Up App. Makes Your Couch a Cool Spot...NY Times. 
Make sure to read the 2nd to last paragraph. 
Google Search: Come on Eileen Artist.
Tune: Shhh By Donora. 
Accomplishment: Some excellent time managing this weekend.
Obsessions: Ginger Ale.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Update

We had a 3 day weekend over here! And it was just plain awesome.
Highlights included...
[1] Dinner at the Irish Ambassador's residence to kick-off St. Patrick's Day festivities 
(pictured with H.E. Mr. John Neary and this year's grand marshal). 
[2] A night out in Tokyo.
[3] 3am ramen run.
[5] A day trip to Yokohama's enormous Chinatown to ring-in Chinese New Year. 




We went to Chinatown to eat the great street food and see the dragon dance, which we did. Though our interaction with the dragon was a little more up-close and personal than we were prepared for. The dragon was going around dancing in front of all the stores that (we think) donated money. Note the red envelope hanging from the door frame in the video below, Mr. Dragon took that with him on his way out. While we were sitting in a cafe, Mr. Dragon came in doing his little dance and gave each of us a big dragon kiss!
Let's go year of the snake, I am expecting big things after my dragon smooch.

Hope you all had a great weekend too!



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