Thursday, May 28, 2009

So, it turns out Im a horrible person!!

Ha haaaa! So it seems that my goal of posting once a month didnt work out so well!!

Enjoy some information/stories of Miyake!!

well, there are some good things and some...not BAD things, but...cultural and language barriers arent easy to break through. Thing is, I dont really live "in Japan". I DO, geographically, but Im on an island called miyake-jima (look it up in google maps - make sure you use satelite...its SO cool - it might be called miyakemura the first two characters will be 三宅 - it means three-homes or soemthing) Every time I say "so this is what Japan is like" the locals say "oh, this isn't Japan. This is Miyake"...and it's true. Its not Japan - but Im betting it's better. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I love it. The people here are amazing, and the ocean is beautiful, I cant really describe the place.
When I went to the other islands and said I was from Miyake, everyone asked 'Gas...daijoubu?' (Is the gas OK?) (Im not sure if they're mocking me...), and really, its fiiine. It SOUNDS a lot scarier than it is, and you really don't need a gas mask unless it's a level 3, which is rare, and even more rarely does it get to level 4. Besides, the school has a desulfurization thing, so you don't even notice the gas at work. Also, sometimes I cant even smell it in my room if my doors are all closed. The gas is only in one area of the island at a time, and that area depends on wind direction, and the level depends on the volcano's mood (no one seems to think that sacrificing a virgin will stop the gas...but no one's tried it, despite my suggestions, so we'll never know). The gas will apparently keep being emitted until the next eruption (which should happen in about 10-15 years).

First, the island itself (all the IZU islands, really) used to be colonies for australia :P The volcano (Oyama, meaning old-man-mountain [I think]) erupted in 2001 - but it wasnt lava, it was sulfur and ash. Everyone was evacuated for 5 years, unknowing when they could come back or what life would be like once they got here. The whole island was destroyed from acid rain and toxic gas. The trees are all white and dead, and it looks like death...but at the bottom, there is a lot of green, and more grows every year - Even after one year, I notice there's a big difference between when I got here in August to now. Anyway, the population went down a lot, and now there are only 2900 people on the island. The school I work at went from having 150 kids to a whopping 46!!
Tsubota, the area I live in, used to be the most populated area, and now, its the most destroyed.

There was a famous man, named Jack Moyer who was an american soldier who found out that the americans were bombing a part of the coral reef near the island, found out that reef was endangered, so he stopped the bombing and eventually moved to Miyake. After the eruption, he killed himself in Tokyo. A very tragic thing and I know the locals regret that. I have tea with the woman who did his taxes sometimes. She owns a store/restaurant and sometimes gives me free stuff :)
There are also some ghost stories on the island, such as, the most gruesome one I know, the story of a little girl. 100 years ago (true story), during the Edo period, the people of Japan used to pay taxes with rice (yeah, only 100 years ago. I think that's partially why they're happy to accept the western-way of life), but there is no rice on miyake, so they paid it with salt. One year the salt went missing. A young girl was with her friends and sang a song about the salt being in her attic. Her dad ground her up in a millstone. Apparently if you walk through a certain gate in Kamitsuki (an area of the island), you can hear the girl singing. There's also a legless ghost that "runs" around a pond at the south end of the island, which looks for its legs - its legs are apparently at the north end of the island (it runs across the rooftops) looking for its body. Also the aforementioned pond is apparently a famous suicide spot, in that, there's a legend that visitors who go there get posessed and hang themselves off the trees.

There is ONE boat that comes to/from Miyake once a day, if the weather is good enough. It leaves Tokyo at 10:30pm, arrives in Miyake at 5am, then goes on to Mikura and Hachijo and back, arriving once again to Miyake, leaves Miyake again at 2:20 and goes to Tokyo. It arrives in Tokyo between 8:00-9pm, depending on weather and which ship you're on. The slow one, Camillia-maru, is older, smaller, and the "summer ship", because the Salubia (Salvia?) -maru, the faster, fancier, larger ship goes to the tourist-islands-chain, and does the Miyake chain in the winter because...either the waves are worse in the winter or better, and that ship deals with it better.
The other way is by plane, which only runs half the time because of the gas. Something that you don't know for sure until 5 minutes before the plane leaves the airport in Tokyo. If there is a west wind, the plane will be cancelled (there are websites that show the predicted wind for the next day, so usually you can figure out for yourself it it will be canelled). Whoever decided to put the airport on the eastern side of the island was kinda foolish...if it were on the north side, chances are the plane would fly more often. Actually, what they SHOULD do is build another airport, but I doubt theres the money for that.

anyway, that's all for now. Maybe...MAYBE I'll update again before I leave!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ok. So I promise a good entry with pictures...later...The last time I tried to update, I started to attach pictures, my computer froze and the whole entry died...Which sucks cause it was a long one.
But this is entirely different.
I have a story!!
So. A Japanese Potto is like a thermos. You put hot water in it and it stays warm for several hours (Im talking 24 hours). There is a button at the top that pumps the hot water out.
Anyway, since its winter, and I loves my tea, I decided to buy the smallest, cheapest one I could find. I wound up buying a thermos, with a spout, for 2400 yen (prolly about 24 dollars, before the Canadian dollar plunged), in late October. Wonderful device. Really happy I got it, but it was kind of small and I wouldnt mind having one with a pump.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I saw that the school got a brand new one with pretty designs and stuff and it was really big, so I assumed that it was going to replace one of the smaller ones that gets refilled several times a day. makes sense. So I said, hey, if you replace the old one with that one, could I possibly get the old one, because I wouldnt mind having one. I dont know what happened, but the next thing I know, the next day, my english teacher tells me he will give me his. I told him that it was ok, and he said he didnt use it. Even after I left the school forgetting to take it with me (I was riding a bike, anyway), and I had yoga class, he left it on my door for me. Naturally I cant refuse it now.
So yay! I got a nice, old-new potto!! 2.5L. perfect.
TODAY, Tamai-san, the music teacher whose desk is accross from mine, who I had spoken to about the pot earlier (I thought it was a thing of the past), knocks on my door. In her hand is the brand new pot! She says "A christmas present from the school!" I was completely taken aback...I tried to refuse it, but no use...some people are too nice
So, now I have 2 pottos and a thermos...all together a whopping 6.5 litres of potential hot water at my disposal, with a boiling pot that MAYBE holds 2 litres!

Moral of the story...NEVER say you want someone...ever...even in passing...
...though I have mentioned I want a car...where are my three cars?!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, I am alive.

Sorry its been a while since I updated. Not for a lack of interesting things. Turns out Im just lazy (who knew??)!
So, what has happened in the last month?
I took a kickass trip to Hiroshima and Miya-jima (Hiroshima is where the first nuclear bomb struck and its now famous for its peace park, miya-jima is famous for its temple - the gate-thing in the water when the tide is in). Not many pictures because while I was there, somehow my camera got sand in it and now it doesnt work 100%. I think it's better now, though. sorry. Rob wants to visit Hiroshima the next time he comes to Japan, so we might do that, and then there will be pictures. Miyajima was awesome because the place is just beautiful. There are deer everywhere that come up to you, expecting food. I got nipped a few times :(

Last weekend I went to Ibaraki prefecture to hang out with my friend, Zac. His place is really cool, and despite being rural, its not THAT rural. But he's got a great placement and has a good situation. It was fun! We ate waaay too much though :P On sunday we went to Mito and went to a mall. It was just a really big mall! In Japan! It was interesting. There is this place he always goes to, where the owner gives him free stuff. We went there afterward. The owner guy wound up giving us a lot to drink and gave Zac's friend a bottle of really nice Sake! The monday I had off, but Zac had to go to school, so I just went shopping and bought some very necessary things for my place. Later I met up with Zac and we wound up making nachos.

The next day I toured around the school for a while. Went to a small temple, walked around the area a litte, then went to pick up Rob. After some pretty terrible food, we walked around Narita, not knowing the area at all, pretty much wasting time until we met Hitomi at 9:20. That night was basically resting.
The next day we toured the main sights of Ibaraki. We found ourselves at an apple picking orchard. The owner (I think?) was superexcited to have foreigners there! This place was really interesting. First they sat us down to taste apples, and we chose which ones we wanted. So we did that and after I paid for myself and Jonny Depp-San (who is Rob, apparently - in Japan he is the spitting image of Jonny Depp!) we said hi to this lady and her child who just wanted to say hello to the 'gaijin san'. Then we saw the ibaraki waterfall and...some wierd mall thing because we ran out of time.

The past few days Rob was on the island with me. He has the pictures. I might steal them from him and post them if I get a chance. Im past my tourist phase, so taking pictures of the island is kinda silly. I didnt have my camera for the first few weeks I was here, so I didnt take any of those 'IM IN JAPAN!' pictures of the island. Unfortunately there isnt much to do on the island when its too cold to swim. So I showed him Miyake's tourism points (all like, 5 of them), and that was it. We didnt go to the Onsen, probably because its a little nerve-wracking to go somewhere like that when you're all alone (its not co-ed) and dont speak the language.
We are hoping to take the plane to Tokyo on friday, but the plane hasnt been running for the past fortnight so I don't know what the winds will be like. Here's hoping for the plane, because otherwise there will be no time to travel around Tokyo...poor Rob.
Anyway, that's all for now, sorry, I should have updated like, 2 weeks ago! oops! I will try better.
I also have to apply for grad school....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tokyo, Sumo and Yoga.

So its been a while. not because nothing's been happening, but simply because I'm busy, and when Im not busy, Im lazy.
My appartment is becoming more and more livable. It's still missing a lot, but it's getting there. I recieved an oven about a week ago (I celebrated by making marble cake, which everyone seemed to enjoy - now they want pumpkin pie for halloween), which will make life a lot easier, but it took the space of the microwave, which was on the fridge (and I cant put anything on top of the oven for safety), so currently the microwave is on the floor and the rice cooker is on a little stool. I need shelves. The art teacher told me he would help me make some, after the school festival.
The school festival is this weekend, which is why I have time off. There were no classes yesterday (but I was busy planning for a trip to Hiroshima), nor are there today and tomorrow, because everyone is preparing for the festival. The big event is a fashion show, which I think the kids (and the sewing teacher) have been preparing for for a long time. They are also selling cakes, I think, and there is an art Im sure several other things. I imagine that a lot of people are going to come.

So. Last weekend I went to Tokyo for a few days to visit people and buy some stuff - I didnt get to get everything I wanted because a) I was spending a lot already b) my friends can be quite the distraction and c) the stores were closed when I actually had a chance to visit them. A fellow Toronto JET (Steph), her friends and I went to a museum that had a miyazaki exhibit - the creator of movies like Spirited away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's moving castle - which was really fun, and again, expencive +P. But totally worth it.
The next day some of the island JETs decided to go to a sumo tournament, and my friends, Zac (another Toronto JET) and Hitomi and I tagged along. Freaking awesome. The arena was HUGE and the sumos were SO big. we were way up high in the nosebleeds, but you could still see very well - one of the people with us (who actually writes for Lonely Planet) brought binoculars, which was really smart. The matches are really interesting. They last between 5 seconds and 1 minute. There is only one match, and, in the higher-level battles, the winner leaves the stage with a wad of cash. After this we went to a restaurant that was I guess meant to be like a sumo thing. There was a fake ring in the middle (and we had excellent seats), and we wound up going on a day where some people (we dont know who) and an 80 year old woman was singing. As they sang, people (the audience?) had 1000 yen bills that were stuck between disposable chopsticks and put them in their belt, kinda like strip-club style. It was interesting.

Yesterday I went to my first Yoga class. It was really interesting, and very Japanese, but I think I did well dispite it...although there was a lot of looking around when I knew I was supposed to be relaxing. The yoga teacher speaks english very well, but he didnt use it while instructing (not that I expected him to), but Im guessing that, if I continue with this (which I think I have to), then I will learn what he's saying. I understand 'cobra pose' well enough, and I think sutte means breath out and haitte means breathe in.
After Yoga several people came to meet me - it seems that I was expected to come - one woman, who I had lunch with once with my pred (about a month ago) had a picture for me, which I guess she was bringing with her every Yoga class until I came. Others were all 'so YOUR Paulette's replacement!' and I think some people want to get together to learn english (which I have to organize, I guess?) and some others were talking about learning how to do a tea ceremony! So We'll see where this takes me!

I know Ive been promising pictures. I have to start updating when Im not at school so I will have my pictures with me.
Anyway, Im really enjoying myself here. Its relaxing and sometimes can be boring when theres nothing to do, but Im still glad I came. And I think I got an awesome placement!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

horse meat and fish eye!

SO! today the Japanese teacher of English (Tsuda-san), along with a few other teachers (about 6 in total) took me and another girl out for our birthdays (hers was sept 1st and mine was sept 7th) to Tsuda-san's favourite restaurant. It was a tonne of fun, and I am SO full...I am also a little tipsy, so excuse any errors :P
Well. I had an experience of a lifetime. I had the privalage of eating raw squid in fish guts and raw horse meat! Yes, Raw horse meat!! It was actually really good, if not a bit fatty. Tsuda-san told the master (the chef) that it was my first time there and both mine and another teacher's birthday, so he gave us I guess a Japanese delicacy. Simmered fish. ie. Simmered fish head. Since it was our birthday, we had the privalege of each having an eye to eat!! actually, it tasted pretty good!! But it was very strange to eat a fish eye. I think it tasted like the rest of the fish, if not a bit slimier. I dont think I chewed it. I dont think Id be ready for that kind of...experience. Im still kinda like "I cant believe I just ate the eye of a fish".
On the way back we took the scenic (and dark, because it was night) route back to the apartment. The ocean sounds so awesome at night, and the smell is just indescribable.

Anyway, that was my birthday dinner!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Dolphin swimming and opening ceremony

Alright. So this weekend was an interesting one.

On saturday morning, some of the office people from the school and my predecessor's friend and I, went dolphin swimming at about 8am. I was warned about seasickness, but I forgot to take my nausea pills, but I did put on sunscreen...I got on the boat, and I didnt think that the seasickness would be that bad. Boy, did I underestimate that!! Ive never been seasick, and I didnt think I ever would be - this wasnt my first time in the ocean, afterall. So, the first dive. I get in, and instantly I feel awful, but I manage to regain myself, and even to see the dolphins as they swam underneath me. Then we got back in the boat to follow them. Sitting on the boat, strattling the side of the boat waiting for the cue to go back in, I threw up. Then I got in the water, feeling better, washing off a bit, the dolphins were amazing! They were going in and out of the water and were having a lot of fun. Then as we neared the boat to get back in, I suddenly got extremely sick and threw up a good 4 times while in the water (ew), empyting my stomach of the cup of tea and the 3 spoonfuls of pudding I managed to eat in the morning. I sat out the next one, which was too bad, because apparently that one was the best one, because they saw a turtle. The next one I went in, and that was great! The last one I went into because the dolphins were clearly playing around (we werent allowed to touch them), and just as I hit the water I felt ill again and gaged, but with nothing to throw up, it was awful, and I didnt see anything.
So we got back on the boat and started to sail back to Miyake Jima, while I laid down on the boat, trying not to be sick again.
So, all in all, it was good, but would have been amazing had I not forgotten to take some pills.
Then I got home, washed off the salt, and then I noticed it: I was completely burnt from my stomach to my knees. The rest of the night was spent with icepacks and soaking in the tub. I had no will to eat, but I managed to eat about 2 bowls of miso soup. Sleeping that night was not very easy, but I managed.

The next day, Paulette, my predecessor, was over because she was packing her things, which I let her keep at my place til she got organized and when she finished, we went out to buy me some aloe and get some food...
The first stop was the post office. The second at the yoga instructor's place, because Paulette had been sleeping there and needed to grab the last of her things. It was about 30 degrees outside and the humidex was at about 97%. At this time I had eaten 2 bowls of soup and a can of mango juice within the last 32 hours or so,plus I was sunburnt. I started to get a headdache, and just as we were about to leave, I lost my balance and fainted (though I didnt go unconcious and I was completely in control, and I didnt hurt myself or anything...just I have never fainted before). After about a minute or so I got back up and the Yoga instructor's wife gave me a glass of water and some tylenol, as the instructor came back and gave me some aloe leaves to put on my sunburns. I felt fine then, and we decided that we should eat before anything happened again.
So we went to a restaurant and I had this curry-rice fried-chicken thing (which was good, if not a bit spicy), and one of Paulette's friends joined us. Then it was time to go to the ship, where several people from the school were there to send Paulette off. There were SO many ribbons (which I guess is the traditional way of sending someone off by boat), and everyone said their goodbyes as Paulette left towards the horizon to Tokyo, to maybe come back someday.
After that, some of the teachers and I went snorkeling, which again was amazing - we were out for a good hour and a half! I saw these sea-spider things, a really long fish, some huge fish, other kinds of tropcial fish, and a plethera of other kinds of things I had never seen before. Then I went home to do dishes, laundry and ironing (which was really hard to do, considering the sunburn).

Today was the opening ceremony. There isnt really much to say about it. The whole time it was extremely hot and everyone was staning for the whole thing (standing for half an hour in extreme heat is not easy), and I think one of the students felt ill. First the Principle came up to introduce me, and I said my speech in english (which was just Hi My name is carla, I come from here, this is my major, this is what Id like to do in miyake, polite polite, kaybye! - I spoke in english while 2 girls translated - though I think I could have said it all in Japanese, but I guess the English teacher wanted the kids to translate instead). Then some awards were given out and then we went back. The students were allowed to go home, but the teachers have to remain at school, which is why I am at the school now. I have a meeting today to talk about english classes and how they work, I suppose.

I start teaching tomorrow!
Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

so it turns out I really like having a blog. Writing emails is too much work.

I hope that everyone who is interested is reading this, cause I'm not sending emails...I'll get around to postcards, except that I dont think they sell them on miyake (which is wierd cause they have miyake keychains). I wont get to Tokyo until September.
Speaking of September, apparently you can get some major discounts on airfare if you travel within 2 weeks before/after your birthday! SO...if any JETS are reading this...who wants company??
So. this week. Well, monday was tough cause the internet was down. And I didn't have a book on me, so I went swimming...They have a HUGE pool on the roof of the school! And its heavenly to swim in! I had a paid vacation yesterday (I think) and we were supposed to go dolphin swimming, but the captain said the waves were too high and it would be I stayed at home and watched the olympics. My modem came in (yay!), but Im still waiting on something else in order for my internets to start working.
The English teacher and another teacher gave me a present today! An Inkkan!! For those who don't know what this is, In Japan, you have this stamp with your name on it that acts as your signature. They are all handmade and are original, so its really hard to get a duplicate, that being said they are extremely expencive and important in order to sign certain documents, and in some cases, you'll need one to get things like a bank account. It is really such a nice gift. I so dont know how to use it...
Some island information! The good things and the bad, what I've discovered thus far.
I am gonna start with the bad and end with the good. I think that's more optimistic.
The worst thing about the island are the electronic boxes. They go off at 7am, 12 noon and 5pm announcing I think the weather, everyday. Which isn't that bad - I dont need an alarm clock in the morning...Its the other, random times it goes off due to gas warnings. Im beginning to understand them. Paulette says that the sound it makes before the announcement indicates what level the gas is, and then you listen for where the gas is. If its really bad you can just smell it (it gives me a headdache). The language barrier isnt that bad, but I can see it getting to me eventually. I dont have a phone yet, and I tried to get one last week, but I need my gaijin card which I havent recieved yet. Transportation is an issue, because you really do need something to get around faster than your legs...
Now the goods. The people. The people are SO nice and SO accomodating. I manage to get a ride to school everyday by someone, and the JTE put a message on the blackboard asking anyone who has something they can give me to tell him. So far I've recieved a bed (my favourite thing), a table (my second favourite thing), a chest or drawers, a plastic chest of drawers, a rice cooker and a frying pan. I gave the teachers a box of chocolates I bought in Choshi when I went to see Hitomi last week. I think they were well recieved. I wrote a note saying 'everyone, thanks for everything' my bad Japanese. I hope it was okay. I am planning on setting out my Canadian candies when school starts so that other teachers I havent met yet can have something too. I am definately becomming more comfortable around here. I went to the store the other day and everyone was like 'Its the new english teacher!' it was kinda nice. The island is beautiful and once I figure out how to explore it I will.

As for people who want to visit me, I give you this advice:
Come in the summerish times...apparently there isnt much to do in the winter (all there is to do is swim, which you cant do in the winter) and I dont know if I will be able to entertain you.
I dont have a car yet, but I hope I will get a moped or a vespa at some point, so again, everything will be by foot, and its a long walk to the good spots, unless you catch a bus, which goes around the island once every hour or two.
The top of the mountain is restricted and no busses go there, so if you want to visit it, you'll have to wait til I get a vehicle.
Bring aquatic gear. The snorkeling is amazing!!

anyway, Im getting disctracted. The internet is pretty and it soon shall be MINE (at home)

Planning a trip to Tokyo in september if anyone wants to join?