Beginning of the end

Today was my last day at my board of education. They’re reorganizing and expanding, as the other area BOEs close and merge with ours, and they’re moving to a new building, splitting into two departments, and doing away with the ALT desks, so Chalice and I won’t have desks there anymore. This won’t affect me too much, except that on my days off I now will still stay at my junior high, and on Friday I’ll go into the community center office instead of the BOE. It also means I won’t see my awesome boss (my one Japanese friends out here), which is a shame. But still, though…they’d pulled some photos off the wall, and one was of an older and slightly sharp but kind woman, the former board of education kacho (section chief), and my former boss. All three of them worked here when I first arrived two years ago. I definitely remember my first impressions of Ikeda, most of which revolved around that office and that building. I’ll miss it.

We also started planning the eikaiwa welcome/farewell party to welcome Caitlin and say goodbye to me. Tentatively, it’s August 10th.

I’ve been busy, and I have to run to my afternoon shougakkou, but I just wanted to check in and say hi. The trip was fantastic and I’m still reeling from the fact that I was at Aso staring into the crater of an active volcano ON MONDAY.

Tomorrow’s the westie sayounara party, with 15 ALTs and 3 Japanese friends in attendance (would’ve been four, but my boss, who really wants to come, is unable to, which is a shame), and we’re all really looking forward to it. I have to clean my place up like mad because people are showering and staying the night here tomorrow. I have a huge photo backlog to upload, so it may still be a couple of weeks till my Kyushu photos make it up. (And there are A LOT. I went all geology-crazy and started taking photos of cool-looking rocks and stuff.)

And I’m off. Yesterday marked seven weeks until I leave Japan. Seven weeks. I’ll be gone six Thursdays from now. This will all be over so soon, and it’s in sight now.


I made it to Aso. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. It was very much a flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants side trip (and pretty expensive)…but I feel like the expense was justified. Whenever I may return, I’ll allow at least a full day to hike and explore.

I’m not totally out of the woods yet–I still have to find a way to the port, but at least I’ll make the ferry. There was a very real danger that I was going to miss it.

I just wish the weather had been better, but this has been a good trip, for sure.

The sky is clear and it’s a beautiful day. I got to Yufuin from Beppu about 40 minutes ago…and I just got on a bus back so I can visit Aso. I should have enough money left for r/t train/bus fare, fare to the Oita port, Matsuyama port parking, the expressway toll, omiyage, and meals. I feel bad about not seeing Yufuin, but it didn’t seem like there was much to do, and Aso is much more important to me. We did pass the massive Yufu-dake volcano, so that was cool at least! Anyway, wish me luck!


We haven’t even gotten to the train stop yet and everything is fogged over. ARGH!! I won’t have another chance to visit before I leave and I’m 2 for 2 now with striking out here…

Unzen and Kumamoto

1. Mountains usually have this sense of permanence to them. It’s chilling looking at Unzen and knowing the peak on the side facing Shimabara didn’t exist 15 years ago.
1a. I’d love to attend Cities On Volcanoes 5. It’s happening at Shimabara this November.
2. Just got into Kumamoto within the half hour and am on the bus to town. It’s much lighter than it was when I was here last September.
3. It hasn’t rained at all today! Let’s hope I’ll have better luck at Aso tomorrow than I did last year.


It’s nice to be back. Even the smell of sulfur is strangely comforting! It’s extremely foggy since the town’s at a high altitude–but at least it’s not raining! I went around Shimabara a bit before coming here. My ryokan is adorable! And they’re making me veg food for dinner and breakfast! I’m off to have my first onsen experience(!) and walk around for a bit before dinner at 6.

En route to Unzen

Rain. Pouring rain. Heavy clouds all across the sky. Staggeringly awful humidity. Hiking or any sort of outdoor activity is out of the question. I’m really disappointed…but I’m feeling relaxed, too. I may go to Shimabara for a few hours and then double back to Unzen in time to check into my ryokan, because there really isn’t much to do in Unzen. A trip to the onsen sounds <i>fantastic</i> right now.

Casting off

After getting to Matsuyama yesterday, I drove in circles for an hour (Rte.11 seems to loop back on itself) before parking and eating at an Indian place, Ladhki, where I completely embarrassed myself by not being able to handle the spice level. My mouth was burning and my eyes were watering like crazy. The chef and server were totally laughing at me.
My ferry roomie (in a room of 8 bunks) was an older woman who was a bit scared of me. I slept well, but now all I want to do is sleep.


After 10.5 straight days of work and/or teaching classes, I’m free till TUESDAY! I can’t even describe what a relief it is to know I don’t have to work for the next 5 days. I’m so physically and mentally and emotionally drained from going and going without much of a break in the middle.

The weather forecast says that it’s supposed to rain pretty much the entire time I’m there, so that’s a bit of a downer. But I’ll just hope it’s a pessimistic forecast, and I’ll pack my umbrella and poncho. Maybe it’ll be the pleasant kind of rain that’s at least still okay to walk around in. At any rate, my ferry tickets and hotel/ryokan reservations are booked, and I’m going no matter what, so I’m going to make the best of it. It’ll be nice to revisit Unzen again, and hopefully I can make it to the crater of Aso.

I just have to fight this urge to take a nap because I didn’t get enough sleep last night (due to taking a nap yesterday after work because I was exhausted)–I haven’t packed a thing, and I’m thinking I’d like to leave in the next hour or so, but no later than 4, to give myself enough time to get to Matsuyama, eat dinner, and find my way to the ferry port. At least I know I can sleep on overnight ferries, as opposed to overnight trains, so maybe I can get over this headache from yesterday that hasn’t quite gone away and rest up in time for this long weekend’s festivities.

With the exception of some possible moblogging/keitai blogs and Flickr keitai photos, take care and see you all Tuesday!

Guilt-ridden pasta

I was almost done eating my salad at La Tavola, where I went for lunch today, when I realized I’d forgotten my wallet at home.

The perks of living in a small town and being an easily recognizeable regular are that people are very gracious and merciful. I went to tell the server, a really sweet woman who always scans the day’s menu to inform me which items are and aren’t vegetarian, that I’d forgotten. She had a really concerned look at my expression and tone, but at “saifu wo wasuremashita” (I forgot my wallet), her concern dissolved instantly. I told her I’d be back in about 20 minutes with my wallet and went to grab my keys from my bag, and she stopped me at the door and insisted that I sit down, eat, and come back and pay later. She had me write down my name and number when I finished my meal. I’d known they probably would let me do that, but it was still really embarrassing and I felt really guilty. Oh, well–better here than in the US, where they would’ve made me wash dishes or something.

I went back in the early evening, wallet in hand this time, and we chatted for a bit. I let her know that I was leaving this summer, and we talked a bit more, and I left feeling a little sadder than I did when I’d arrived. Having to go around town and make these announcements to the different restaurant owners and clerks and so on is really cementing it–and I’m now under 2 months away from the end.

I’ve decided that I want to go around during my last few weeks and try to thank as many people around town as possible–the high school girl with the really calming voice and manner at Daily Mart, the “arigite gozaimasu” woman at Sunshine who always gives me a big smile, the man in the bedding store who nods and waves at me, the owner of the stationery store, the older woman who owns the earthenware store on my street, the sweet girl with the slight stutter at the organic bakery, the ladies at the train station ticket counter…and many more. They’re a big part of why I’ve come to really love this town, and why I’ve really had such a great time here. Even when I’m feeling burned out and not really up for conversation (which has been quite often lately), it’s just nice to know there are all these friendly presences around town.