Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Onsen, a "Typhoon," a Speech Contest, and a Cream Soda Sandwich

After writing all those posts about my summer break, I haven't posted much. But interesting things are still happening!

On Friday the 3rd, the junior high school had a party for a teacher who transferred to another school. I thought it was just going to be a dinner party, but that day a teacher told me it was at an onsen, which means "hot spring" in Japanese.

I had kind of wanted to go to an onsen, but kind of not because you have to be naked. It just seemed like it would be really awkward. However, it was a lot of fun and really wasn't bad at all.

Before entering the onsen you have to scrub yourself clean and rinse yourself.

I tried many of the different outdoor baths. The first one I got into was a tea bath! It smelled really good! Next we went into a large one (big enough to kind of swim in!) with waterfalls. There were rocks to sit on under the waterfalls so that the water massaged your back. After that I tried one where you lay down. The last outdoor one I tried was one that was really white and smelled a bit like sulphur. It's supposed to do nice things to your skin.
After that we went into one of the indoor baths. It had a bunch of bubble jets. Fun! :)

Then we went to a room upstairs to meet back with the rest of the teachers and eat dinner. We had nabe. There was a burner on the table with a pot. In the pot we boiled dashi, which is a soup stock made from kelp and fish. Then we added various ingredients including thinly sliced beef, chicken meatballs, hot dogs, carrots, bean sprouts, mushrooms (the really long thin white kind that I actually like), and udon noodles. It was sooooooo good! I didn't take a picture, but here is one that will give you a general idea.


For desert we had a piece of cake and grapes. I found out something interesting. Japanese people typically don't eat grape skins. It's fine, but it surprised me since I often feel like Japanese people will eat anything. They'll eat whole fish with heads, eyes, bones, and even eggs inside them... but they don't eat grape skins.

On the following Wednesday afternoon I was sitting in the staff room and the teachers had a meeting. It's odd for them to have a meeting in the afternoon like that. I couldn't understand a lot of what was said but I did catch that a typhoon was coming. Then several of the teachers were asking various questions like, "What about cleaning time?" "What about the speech contest practice?" So I figured it out... the students were getting out of school early!

So, the students got to leave at 2:30. They were very excited of course! I didn't get to leave until 3:30, which was my scheduled time, but I was still happy. I had planned on staying late to practice for the English speech contest (and the day before I had stayed until about 7:00) so it felt like I was leaving early!

The typhoon was actually a tropical storm, but it hardly even seemed like that by the time it reached here. At 3:30 I went to the grocery store. It was raining a bit. The worst was going to arrive at 5:00 though. As I walked home from the grocery it was raining a bit harder and the wind was blowing, but it wasn't bad. My umbrella never even attempted to flip inside out. When I first moved here there were rainy days where I didn't even attempt to carry an umbrella. Some days (even without rain) were so windy that it was hard to walk. This storm probably doesn't even rank in the top five storms since I've been here.

I arrived home and 5:00 arrived and it didn't get any worse. I was a bit disappointed. It wasn't exciting at all.

But, I didn't like that the electricity kept flickering. I really didn't want to lose power. Luckily, it never went out for more than a second.

Other ALTs said that in their towns they saw lighting and that the storm was stronger than it was here. Awww! I want to see lightning! Since I've lived here, I've heard thunder once when I was shopping in Gotemba. One night in Toi I saw quite a few flashes of lightning beyond the mountains and another time while I was running. It was all way in the distance though. Thunderstorms are a LOT rarer here than in Kentucky.

Last Friday was the junior high English speech contest. My students did really well! Four first graders (7th grade in the US) did a skit. They seemed a bit nervous, but I was glad that they remembered all their lines! The 2nd grade student also remembered all her lines. Just a week before she only had about half of the speech memorized and had trouble pronouncing many words and didn't have much emotion. She improved a LOT though! The third grade student did very well, but I knew she would! None of the students from Toi moved on to the next level, but the 3rd grade girl did get an honorable mention.

The speech contest was a lot of fun. I was afraid that it might be a little boring to sit through so many speeches, but it wasn't. I liked seeing the students from the other schools, especially since a lot of them are students of my friends.

The other day I saw something very strange at the grocery store... not surprising. It was a Cream Soda Sandwich! In Japan, cream soda usually means a melon soda ice cream float. I couldn't resist. It didn't sound great, but I just had to try!


The inside had cream that was similar to Oreo cream, but a little softer. There were patches of green, which were the melon soda flavored parts.


The green parts were a tiny bit sour (not really sour, but more sour than you would expect in a sandwich) and a bit too fruity. The cream is very sugary so it's definitely more of a desert type thing. But overall, I really liked the sandwich. I actually bought another one!

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