If there is one thing that we could complain about our ryokan, it would be the air conditioning. We wake up pretty sweaty and needing to take advantage of the handy shower. Japan uses it's extra hours of summer light to brighten the morning (though no one is up!). After a fast food breakfast, we were off to see the sights. Though it wasn't on our tour guide's list, we decided to check out a monkey park overlooking the city. Having paid our admission, we somewhat skeptically began climbing the hill under a canopy of vegetation. To our surprise, we got more monkey than we wanted! Dozens of monkeys roamed and groomed among the visitors and from the safety of a cage (us inside) we fed the monkeys. Just before we left, one monkey lunged for Bjorn with vicious intent. They warned not to look them in the eye, but how can you not look at a vicious primate charging at you. Before it was over, Calvin and I were also chased by the same aggressive monkey. By the time we got back down the hill, our heartbeats were back to normal. We next strolled along a river and through a bamboo garden forest. We rode the bus to visit two temples. One was the Ryoanji Temple, famous for it's rock garden and beautiful grounds. Then it was the picturesque Kinkaka-Jim (golden temple) nestled in the deep green hillside foliage. Another very crowded bus ride brought us to the city's nightlife and a shabu shabu meal where we cooked the veggies and meat as it was given to us. A two mile stroll home through the night streets saw another day in Japan complete, happy that none of us had rabies!
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Calvin had us up at the crack of Tokyo dawn, making our way to downtown amidst the millions of commuters with our luggage for the week on our backs. We validated our Japan Rail passes and were soon speeding our way past urban centers and mountain valleys. Our destination for the morning was Kyoto, with it's many tourists sites and traditional culture. After a little confusion, Calvin led us to a great little guesthouse (ryokan) with traditional accommodations. We ditched our backpacks and headed for the sites after bowls of soba and udon noodles. A walking tour led us to join thousands of tourists to a scenic temple on the hillside overlooking the city. We walked through a huge cemetery on the way down the hill and stumbled on some monks chanting in another temple. As our energy began to fade from the heat, we strolled through narrow streets filled with traditional buildings a geisha wannabes. When our bodies finally gave out, we ate grilled vegetables and lamb (yakiniki) at a small restaurant where he cooked it in front of us and we ate off the grill. The end of the evening saw us bathed and in our yukate robes ready to share the floor of tatami mats and futons.yuk ate
Our messed up body clocks awoke us at 4:00 am, feeling rested and full of anticipation. We were quickly stepping on each other, bathing, ironing and dressing. A rice ball and coffee from the local 7-Eleven for breakfast was followed by a 30 minute walk to ICU. As Calvin rehearsed with his graduating classmates, Markus took us on a preliminary tour of the beautiful campus. We joined other families in a waiting area before being ushered into the lovely, traditional chapel. The large pipe organ prelude called the reverent assembly to the task at hand. The graduation ceremony was fairly typical of a Western ceremony with a few exceptions. The audience was very respectful, with only a few family hoots and exuberant graduates. We received a strong sense of pride among the faculty and parents that these students were graduates of a prestigious institution.The post ceremony photo ops were held on the lawn in front of the chapel. Calvin was kept busy posing with all his friends. A well stocked 'tea ceremony' satisfied our starving stomachs. We spent the afternoon getting a detailed tour of the campus from Calvin and Sassa with constant greetings and conversations. Esther was only told to be quiet once! We all decided that Calvin had sold short the gorgeous ICU campus. The spacious grounds and surrounding forest are a stark contrast to the endless city sprawl that surrounds it. We ended the day with dinner at a local restaurant not far from campus. We said goodbye to Sassa for a couple of days, took off our stifling formal clothes and got to bed early to prepare for the start of our country tour the next day.
Our eternal day of travel began with a 4:30 get up. All transitions went smoothly and as planned. First there was a flight to LAX and a five hour layover. Then an eleven hour flight to Narita. It was awkward chasing the sun and somehow losing a calendar day when we finally landed in Japan. We all were able to sleep, some much more than others. Calvin and Sassa were at Narita to meet us. A euphoric feeling accompanied the realization that after more than two years of anticipation, we were finally in Japan with Calvin. We next caught a couple of trains and a taxi to ultimately collapse in Calvin's 200 square foot apartment. We almost completely covered the floor space with futon's, air mattresses and exhausted bodies. After 26 hours we had made it from Southworth to Mitaka, Japan.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Esther and I spent Father's Day with Markus. We took our bikes and rode the Burke Gilman trail from Freemont to Kenmore (28 miles round trip) It had been 30 years since the last time we rode this stretch of the trail. Portions of the trail had some heavy traffic--Getting us ready for Japan I suppose. Riding the trail gives a unique view of the northern portion of Lake Washington and the homes along the western shore. Esther made sure that we made a stop at University Village on the way back. Good thing we couldn't carry anything on our bikes! We ate supper at a Mexican cantina around the corner from Markus' house.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Yesterday I said Goodbye to my sixth grade class. Many of them have been with me for three years. They were in our multiage class for fourth and fifth grade, then were a part of my sixth grade class which I began this year. I have spent 540 days with them, over 4,000 hours. Aside from their parents, I will have spent more time with them than any other adult. That is a sobering thought. I can only hope and pray that my values and influence will have a significant impact on their lives. I know that I enjoyed my time with them. They are a lively bunch.
Thursday, June 06, 2013
After yesterday's Mariners game, I took a personal day off on my birthday and spent the day sailing. Wind was very light and I was becalmed in a current north of Blake Island. I motored home in a dead calm until the motor ran out of gas and then wouldn't start. I had to take the motor off and repair the recoil. But it was still a great day on the water. Finished the day with a dinner out with Esther.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
I am certainly getting my fill of Blake Island. Long before our plans for last weekend's festivities, I planned to take my class to Blake Island for an overnighter. I usually take my class to Neah Bay this time of year, but because many of these students were with me last year and had already been there, I decided to find something a little closer to home. Surprisingly, only two of the students had ever been to the Island. So instead of enjoying the first sunny weekend in June landscaping or sailing, I took seventeen students to Blake Island. We were once again blessed with a safe enjoyable experience. One of my student's grandparents generously offered their 40' cabin cruiser to transport the kids. (Beats five trips in my sailboat!) Two dads also accompanied us on the adventure. We trekked the 4.3 miles around the island and witnessed the Tillicum Village Native American performance. We battled dozens of raccoons and survived an unexpected early morning rain shower that soaked the girls' tent. The students were well behaved and helpful. I expect that they will remember the trip for a long time.