Monday, May 29, 2006

Mud, blood, sweat and beers

Hello blog. Long time no see huh? It’s been pretty quiet around here aside from the occasional heavy metal concert, the odd swim and a party or two.

Yesterday a grand time was had by all who attended the annual Gatalympic events in Kashima. Everyone on the bloated ALT team performed to a remarkably high standard and a fine display of sportsmanship was displayed by all. I only had my short shorts to wear so the evening before I decorated my shiny white, yet well muscled, legs with all manner of black decorations and fighting Kanji, of course being ably assited by Fumiko in this aspect. The mud, thick and greasy as ever, clambered into every crevasse at the moment of impact into its mire some depths. Highlight of the day was helping pull Dabs up from the mud, only to pick her up and throw her back in once she was on dry land.

Five minutes later I was waist deep in mud, in a repeat of last years all out war, when I felt and odd sensation down around my ankles. Wearing my gloves this year, I reached down and pulled out a broken, twisted beer can. Damn.

Sweet, sweet irony ensued as only forty-eight hours after having Joe tell me about the amount of untreated waste water (not sewerage) that runs into the Ariake sea I got tagged up right mean by debris hidden a meter under the mud. Thus my day in the actual mud was cut quite short. Can’t help bad luck I suppose. Showered twice, went to the aid station, got sprayed with stuff. Still had a good day though, sitting around on the steps, drinking beer and catching up with people.

Koreans can cheer quite loudly as we found out. Watching our women folk compete in the ladies only mud wrestling tournament, we found ourselves seated next to about twenty Korean guys watching as well. So we, as somewhat relaxed foreigners as well, joined the cavalcade of chants and songs they displayed. In the center middle of a few thousand sedate Japanese families watching the mud Olympics, there was the smallest, loudest crowd of drunken Koreans, English, Kiwi’s, Australians, Americans and Canadians. It was like transplanting a little piece of a cup final into a chess crowd. Was seen to at the hospital later on in the day, thorough cleaning out of the leg with metal things and bits of swab, sticky skin patches and a three day course of pills. I just love dripping pus, so it’s working out fine. As another bonus, the biggest cuts run straight through some of the Kanji characters I had written on my leg for the day, the ones for 'fighting spirit'. looks cool.

Just before posting this I receieved a phone call. On a sadder note, I have just been informed that the section chief, Nakahasi, one of my uber-bosses at the board of education passed on yesterday morning. May he find rest, the wake is tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nagasaki

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Spiffing thanks.

Except for the weather on Saturday, this aspect of the city pouring a heavy windy storm on our first night. This led to a prolonged and entrenched dinner in a curry restaurant of such quality that it prompted me to gastronomic fits of high exuberance which in turn led to me nearly regurgitating from having eaten too much. Seriously, it was touch and go for about an hour afterwards.

During the day viewed some old churches, Nagasaki having its international city reputation to maintain, that while perhaps for the Japanese tourist who has never seen the inside of a real church before, might be somewhat amazing and yet for someone raised in the roman catholic tradition isn’t a patch on some of the examples that exist even in Wellington. However, the outside looks very nice.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It felt profoundly uncomfortable to be inside a consecrated building that was both church and tourist attraction. Now although I’ve taken plenty of Temple photos in Japan (and really who doesn’t?) , I’ve only taken pictures of the exterior’s and the surrounds of the structures, I’ve never taken a photo of what is actually inside the shrines themselves or any ceremony, save for the outdoor, public wedding procession in Tokyo, nor have I entered into the buildings themselves, as I have no real need to and don’t wish to intrude on the spiritual undertakings of those who do. So to be in a place of active worship that was at the same time a place of tourism was strange to the utmost. Didn’t stay inside for very long.

Up the road a bit among the tourist trap stalls is a shop that sells used U.S. anti-tank rocket launchers and F-16 series fighter pilot helmets for outrageous sums. And we found a life size Neko-Bus

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Then we made our way through the pouring rain and ate a tasty lunch in Nagasaki’s outrageously overpriced China town restaurant district. Nice view of the harbor from out hotel room.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I didn’t know it was possible to spend six hours at an Aquarium that specifically caters to penguins, but in Japan it seems anything’s possible. You see, at the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium,
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
which is mostly made up of rather large, well maintained penguin enclosures, if you are one of the first people to arrive in the morning, you get given a pass which allows you to walk into the largest enclosure later on in the day and hand feed the penguins. Which we did and I’ve never had penguins flock around my feet and hungrily snatch fish from me. I’ve had dolphins and catfish and stingrays and otters, but not penguins.

Also, this pass allows you to join a backstage tour of the aquarium an hour later. You get to see the food preparation areas, the penguins sleeping and breeding areas, the enormous water filtration systems and you walk across the grated walkways over this tank
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
and cause a minor feeding frenzy by giving them all some food. Add sea turtles, sharks, grouper, bat fish and anything else you see in the tank that I’ve hand fed.

Add some kayaking into the mix, some lunch, a couple of beers and then finally getting to stroke some penguins later on in the day and you leave, slightly bemused at three o’clock in the afternoon, six hours after arriving at nine with a finer knowledge of plankton rearing, penguin chick nursing and large scale water filtration systems than you had on first arriving. Photo’s for the trip are on the whole lacking, as I took mostly video this time out, which I will cut together with some suitable music later this afternoon.

Sunday afternoon we walked up into the massive graveyards that line the hills of Nagasaki.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
and then followed Dragon dancers through the streets. I bought some new clothes on impulse and a new memory card for the camera. We ate dinner and wandered around the city, drinks in hand. Watched Bad Boys 2 entirely in Japanese as you don’t really need the script to surmise the plot.

The weather cleared and the next day the gondola to the Mt. Inasa observation post was taken.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The view spectacular, we rode down and made our way, collected our baggage and trained back home. Very nice small trip away.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting