Posted by: wesleysensei | August 18, 2011

Matsushima ah

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Matsushima ah, a-ah Matsushima ah, Matsushima ah.

This is my favorite haiku written about the coastal town of Matsushima, Miyagi both because of its simplicity and effectiveness at capturing the view of the Matsushima.

When I was in the earthquake in March, I was next to Matsushima in Osato so I didn’t experience the tsunami first hand. I was certain though that being on the water, Matsushima would not have escaped the raging water. It wasn’t until this trip that I realized the town was safe and the tourist destinations were unaffected. In my head this past March I was unsettled by mental images of the islands, temples, and shops–that I had visited countless times–underwater or swept away. I was pleased and relieved to see none of that when I went yesterday.

Matsushima is famous across the country as one of the “three great views of Japan”, and tourists come from all over to admire its natural beauty. I am happy to report that yesterday the town was bustling with visitors and workers were taking down decorations and tents from Obon (a Japanese holiday) festivities the days before.

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I will put the rest in pictures:

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Posted by: wesleysensei | August 17, 2011

International Breakfast

I have noticed something through my limited international travels: breakfast is the one meal that you can only really get in your home country. That is to say that breakfast is sightly different all over the world and it’s one meal that’s hard to find just the way you like it unless you’re in your home country. Lunch and dinner are easy because in today’s world we eat various cuisines from different cultures. Breakfast, however, is a sacred, protected meal. Rarely are we so adventurous that we opt for an international breakfast.

Yesterday morning was an exception.

I was staying in the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo and had a breakfast coupon that allowed me one free breakfast any of the restaurants in the hotel. Naturally, I went for the American breakfast buffet. Too bad the line was about twenty people long; I might like pancakes and eggs but not if it means a forty minute wait. I instead decided to go to the Japanese breakfast buffet which had no wait and was right next door. Here’s where it gets interesting…I was glad to have chosen the Japanese breakfast because I’ve come to like it and I can’t possible find a place in Virginia where it is served. My meal consisted of the following: salmon, sama (a type of fish), rice, miso soup, tofu, cabbage, sausage, Japanese-style eggs, yogurt, coffee, and milk.
I really wish I had brought my camera that morning because I wanted to take a picture to show you and because I had an urge to just take a picture of my meal. Maybe I am slowly turning Japanese.

Posted by: wesleysensei | August 14, 2011

Another Journey Begins

As Will Barringer and I were leaving Japan in July, we got word of a program that was inviting JET Alumni from Tohoku to return to their former towns for one week. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs created this program, the Tohoku Invitation Program, with the goal of reuniting JETs with their communities and promoting travel in Japan. In other words, the government is attempting a grassroots PR campaign designed to get the word out about Japan’s safety and progress post 3/11.

And here I am, a lucky participant, waiting at the airport ready to return once again to Japan. The trip will be 7 days which is a bit short, but not as short as my trip last summer for my sister’s wedding where I flew into America on a Friday and flew out to Japan on Tuesday. We are boarding now, so I’ll cut this one short. Expect lots of updates and pictures of my travels.

Posted by: wesleysensei | July 2, 2011

Buoy Buoy! Ooooh baby when are we gonna go?!

Will and I have finished our time off and are back in Ishinomaki volunteering. We were quite surprised, however, to learn–upon our arrival–that we would not be returning to Kasuka Fashion, where we stayed last time. Instead, we are staying at Senshu University on the school grounds in tents. As I sit in the dark with mosquitos buzzing around I can easily tell this will be a different experience; when I go to bed tonight and share a small tent with 5 strangers, I will certainly notice a difference.

Our work and work site has also been changed. We are no longer cleaning houses and shoveling mud. Today and for this week we will drive about an hour away to a small port where oysters were farmed. Our work is to untangle the 15000¥ buoys and clear the debris. The smell of oysters roasting for three months in the sun is something to experience.

There is more to come I suppose, but I should retire. We’ll post some pictures tomorrow and maybe write up another article about our experience visiting Sakai-sensei’s school.

Until then…

Posted by: wesleysensei | June 28, 2011

Return to the Waterfront of Dreams

During our week off from Peace Boat work in Ishinomaki, Wesley and I organized a short trip to Kesennuma in the north-east part of Miyagi. I lived there for two years from August 2008 to 2010 and it was a surreal experience going back to the streets I use to walk on a daily occasion and seeing the mass destruction that had taken place since I`ve been away. The stories from the individuals there were amazing and I can`t imagine having to go through that myself.

Our friend Jessica offered to drive us around to see the town and visit my former schools, but first we made out way to the Board of Education where we were greeted by a pretty decently sized group of Kesennuma citizens. I was shocked to see so many people that I did not know gathering to welcome me back to my home of two years! When meeting eyes and waving to this group resulted in strange glances among the mass our little group decided to ask why they were waiting. We found out that the Emperor`s second son(the Prince Harry of Japan) was making his way to Kesennuma to visit. It dashed my happy feelings for a short while….but I was back on cloud nine again when I met up with my former supervisor, Itou-sensei, and his assistant, Shizuka! She gave me a hard time about many things, but agreed to join the planned dinner later that evening.

Catching up with my former cohort, including the new members, at dinner was great. I shared my experiences in shorts bursts with my successor and it was nice to finally meet the person who had taken over in my place. We fed on delicious yakiniku and made sure we picked a platter with some cow tongue! Yummy! I even got to sit next to Shizuka! While we were all at dinner, my former neighbor and hair stylist, Takako, showed up and put loads of happiness in the air. Her shop was destroyed in the tsunami and now she goes to her customers with a tackle box full of supplies. I was very proud of her to be so positive and herself after something so horrible had happened to her. She and her husband, David, have been very lucky to receive the aid they did after such a devastating turn of events.

After dinner everyone said their goodbyes and Takako offered to give me a haircut at Jessica`s apartment. I jumped on the offer like Mario on a Goomba and had my ears lowered by my number one favorite beautician! It was a great treat and was on my list of things to do on this trip!

On the last day of the Kesennuma trip I got to visit former teachers and say hello to a few students, but everyone at school was very busy and didn`t have a lot of time to talk. I have mixed feelings about it, but without giving anyone warning of my visit and having limited time in the city, there wasn`t much I could do. My former coworker showed me a picture of his daughter born two days before the tsunami and thankfully everyone remembered my name. The short visits were sweet and to the point. We were pressed for time though, so a trip to the island where I taught was too difficult to manage.

With my to-do list mostly crossed off, Wesley and I were seen off by Jessica and Takako and boarded our train back to Rifu to end our Kesennuma trip. The vast fields of rice in Miyagi are still a wonderful sight, even with the ominous clouds covering the entire sky and the train to Kesennuma still takes a large chunk of the day.

-Will

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Posted by: wesleysensei | June 27, 2011

Break Time

Will and I have finished our first week working with Peace Boat in Ishinomaki. Our Internet access was limited–as was our spare time–so we weren’t able to update as frequently as we wanted. Now that we are taking a week break and visiting friends around Miyagi, we should be able to update more often and be available if anyone wants to Skype.

So, the first week went by a lot quicker than I expected. I must admit that by Saturday I was ready for a break (and a shower!). Though I’m looking forward to this week and to traveling around beautiful Miyagi, I do feel like a week is too long. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see my friends and I do want to enjoy Miyagi, but I don’t need a full week off from volunteering with Peace Boat. Had we just this weekend, we could have showered, relaxed, and recharged for another week. The organization, however, is somewhat strict about joining the relief effort. They have developed an effective volunteer system, but in doing so have made it difficult for anyone just to show up and work. Because of this, Will and I are not able to start back in Ishinomaki until July 2nd, when we will again work for a week.

Currently–as in, right now as I type–Will and I are on the Tohoku Honsen headed to Ichinoseki where we will transfer to the Ofunato Sen and head to Kesennuma, Will’s former town. We’ll stay overnight and then head back to the Sakai’s house in Rifu. Being on this train and seeing Miyagi is bringing out a nostalgia for my JET years; it’s overwhelming at times.

I’m going to end this post there because I’d like to look out the window and admire the view.

While I do that, check out some more photos from our trip and feel free to read previous posts.

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Posted by: wesleysensei | June 23, 2011

Pictures. Words later?

The second picture is of me taken on the way to a worksite. We have been moving locations almost daily because through teamwork and all day hours we are able to finish our jobs quickly. The work ranges from removing sludge/mud to breaking down walls to general cleaning.

The third picture is of Will leading Taiso (exercises) in the morning. In Japan there are official national exercises that almost everyone knows. It’s accompanied by music and an announcer counting and instructing. Will was pointed to by everyone in his group and thus chosen to lead for the morning. Well done Will.

The first picture is from an Onsen (Japanese bath) we were taken to the other day. It was a surprise to us because we didn’t expect to shower the whole time we were working in Ishinomaki. The best part was that it was an onset that I passed countless times on my drive up to see Canon and Will. The bath was refreshing and much needed. Sadly, we are already back to smelling bad and feeling gross. The wet wipe bathing method is better than nothing but not too great.

Lastly, the reason I am able to post this today is because it is raining today and we haven’t been sent to work yet. I think we’ll likely go in the afternoon as the sky seems to be clearing up.

Oh, and we are ok from the quake this morning. There was a minor tsunami warning in Iwate Prefecture but we were ok here in Miyagi.

Thanks for reading

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Posted by: wesleysensei | June 21, 2011

Superwoman Makes Appearance in Ishinomak!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Superwoman swoops into Ishinomaki to feed starving volunteers.

So working for Peace Boat has been a dirty, sweaty mess but enjoyable and rewarding at the same time. One of the challenging things with the experience is that all volunteers are to provide their own food for the week in addition to bringing back all of their garbage. Lunch and dinners therefore are typically Cup Noodles, canned tuna, and other relatively nonperishable foods.

Will and I had plan to “rough” it and eat Powerbars and tuna packets all week. But……then…..from thin air….Superwoman, herself, appeared at our worksite on the first night armed with two boxes of supplies. She brought breaded pork cutlets (katsu), fancy ramen sets, a portable stove, utensils etc. I was SO excited for the fresh, hot katstu and even MORE so for the surprise visit from Superwoman.

You wouldn’t believe it, but she made another appearance on the third day…..with even MORE supplies. This time with fresh bananas, oranges, and bread PLUS a cooler full of juice, iced coffee, lemon water, and hotdogs! Will, our groups, and I have been able to enjoy fresh food and drink these past few days all thanks to the generosity and amazingness of Superwoman, dear friend of mine. Thank you.

ūüôā

Posted by: wesleysensei | June 16, 2011

Gettin’ Swoll

So much to say, but….must go….to bed. I’ll post some pictures now and then write up an article later. Feel free, however, to write your own article to accompany the pictures (and title).

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Posted by: wesleysensei | June 15, 2011

“It’s Reiiii-men!”

After our long day in meetings listening to translators and watching slide shows, Wesley and I had tum-tums¬†that were dying for some attention.¬† We needed to find a nice ramen shop ASAP and didn’t have enough money on us to make sure we would have enough for train tickets so we decided to hold off on finding a nice shop until we made it to our final train destination.¬† We asked some convenience store clerks where we could find a place.¬† These young clerks looked like a Japanese comedy duo and one of them had anime styled gelled up hair.¬† Their assistance and overall personality was great.¬† Though they looked a little nervous when we started talking to them, I guess our Japanese was good enough to calm their nerves and allow them to talk to us without mounds of sweat gathering on their foreheads.

The ramen shop we found fit about ten people and even in Tokyo it seemed like they did not see many foreignors in the shop.¬† The super cool regulars were busying eating and smoking their cigarettes when we arrived and I’m pretty sure I heard some grasshoppers chirping as we entered the establishment.¬† We bent down a good six inches to avoid any head trauma¬†while walking through the door.¬† As Wesley and I sat¬†an old man we shared a table with moved to accommodate¬†our need for more space.¬† The ramen shop’s owner came out to take our order and we were pleased to hear they had “chashuu¬†men.”¬†¬† Chashuu¬†men is normal ramen, but with added slices of pork for those times with three slices just isn’t enough.¬† Wesley and I enjoyed the meal and as our empty bowls showed, we were still proud members of the Clean Bowl Club.¬† After a couple water¬†refills from the shop’s Obaa-chan(old lady) we paid and made our way home with full bellies.

Wesley and I were thinking of new Japanese/English puns as we walked home from our volunteer session in Asakusa.¬† Here’s mine:¬† “What is the Weather Girls’ favorite kind of noodle?”¬† The answer is the title of this article!¬† Pretty good, right?

By: Will

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