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Archive for February, 2008

Japanese Classes Feb 14th

I went to a free Japanese class at the International Students Center today. It took about an hour walking and taking the subway. Once you g et there, we signed up and then sit and wait (like in a doctor’s office) until a volunteer comes for you. You get an hour or more of private one on one so you can proceed at your own level. It was fun! They have classes three times a week.

It has been snowing on and off and the pavements got icy and slippery again and of course I fell! Even though I had Solomon snow clogs on. Darn those girls in heels! One of the volunteers at the center told me that one has to shuffle when you walk on snow and ice. No wonder alot of Japanese walk like they are always running and shuffling.

Yesterday, when I was walking to another free Japanese class – this time it was conversation – I noticed that all the lovely statues and snow carvings were gone and a couple of bull dozers were hard at work demolishing the really huge ones. Sad.

At the conversation class, there were 7 volunteers asking me questions in Japanese. I could answer some of them but it was nerve wrecking and my stupid nose was itching from the cold. It was minus 5 when I walked for about an hour to get to this center (different place from the japanese classes). I was so cold.

I cannot understand how the Japanese school girls withstand the cold. They have UGGS boots on – most of them – but it looked like they have nothing between the knees and their thighs. I hear they rolled up their skirts when they leave school so the skirts are reall short. Brrr… some have stockings on but mostly they were just bare skin…oh….man!!

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Yarn and Fabric Store

The other day, I went to Tokyo Hands, a huge multi level department store to see if they have a craft or yarn department. When I got there they say “gomenasai” – sorry they do not have it but the nice man sent me 4 blocks up the road and I ended up in what looked like a huge shopping area. I found a nice yarn store called “Mitsumaya” and could not resist buying some yarn for a couple of hats. I have never seen any of this brand in the US before. It was just so awesome to feel the different balls , to pick and then put down. Most of the samples are hats I have never seen patterns for and when you buy yarn for the hat, they give you a pattern, in Japanese, of course!

Then, when I left this store, I carried on walking and lo and behold, next door was the most wondrous store that i have ever seen since coming to Japan! Choc o bloc with fabrics, sewing notions, crafts and when I asked if they have yarn, the girl sent me up to the fourth floor where all the yarns are! I recognised a few like Zara, and they even have NORO!! One was a very fine silk garden. Lovely colors! Lots of organic yarn.

So, I shall be making my way there again one of these days – maybe bring my KA Hat to show off.

Did I ever mention that there is a yarn made of banana? No, I did not find it here but I think I saw it in a craft store in Aizu.

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Takkyubin Feb10th

So, I needed more clothes, some more knitting and stuff from Aizu. I walked Dave through the process of looking for stuff in the apartment. He said that’s a huge pile on the bed and he had to pack them in the big ole red suitcase that used to belong to my sister. I told him to print the address of where I am staying in Sapporo , in Japanese, and go to the 7-11 store to send the bag through Takkyubin, courier service that is so useful here in Japan.

A bit later, he called to say “I think I sent it.” He speaks no Japanese and the girl at the 7-11 speaks no English. He just said Takyyubin and showed her the address, and paid 2000yen – about $20. Then I had the fear that he may have sent it to the Tokyo address instead of Sapporo but checking th epost code assured me that I should be getting it tomorrow.

Takkyubin is a service where one can send one’s suitcases to the airport, thus, avoiding the hassle of dragging your huge bag or bags through the train system to the airport or to your hotel anywhere in Japan. Very useful service and cheap! A friend sent her snowboard from Sendai on the island of Honshu to Hokkaido for $10! That’s by air too, as my suitcase.

The logo for this service is a mother cat carrying a baby cat. Liza sketched one – maybe she will let me put it on this blog.

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My fellow residents

We have quite a collecion of people staying here and it is like family. One is a young farmer, whose family farms potato in the north east of Hokkaido. He said it is so cold there that one can see huge blocks of icebergs come down from the Arctic Pole. He is a modern farmer, I think cos he has a laptop, speaks English very well and sometimes goes to Australia to pick fruits. He is here to look for work while the farm is under snow cover. But the bizarre thing is that it looked like he tweezes his eye brow! Hmmm… Maybe he acts in a Japanese theatre like the Kabuki actors ..they have shaped eye brows don’t they? It really looked weird cos all the men here have thick bushy brows and he has a lovely shaped  looking eye brows!

Then , there are two chinese brothers. The one brother had a car accident and landed the other driver in hospital and so the company he works for  has put up a bail of $2million and he cannot leave Sapporo for the next month or so. His younger brother is here to keep him company and they take turn to cook. For Chinese New Year Eve, they cooked up a huge feast and invited us all to eat. I even had a half glass of beer!

The other guys are a couple of Korean, another young japanese who speaks excellent English and a couple of ladies who do not hang around with us riff raffs. There’s also a young chinese Brain Surgeon who is doing research on brain tumours like my father in law had.

When Lucy and i got here, there were only 10 residents. Now, with the arrival of a few more,including a French man who speaks excellent Japanese, the number has gone up to 16.  I hope I will be out of here before the house fills up to 90 in capacity. I cannot imagine trying to take turn to cook!

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Snow Festival

The Snow Festival is in full swing here in Sapporo, all this week, Feb 5 through the 8th. Yesterday, I walked along the whole length of Odori Park to see the carvers still hard at work. The judging was today. I spoke to the Malaysian team and the two US teams . They worked 12 hours a day for four days. It was bitter cold but the Malaysian guy said last year when they were in China the temperature was minus 26!!! The guys from Malaysia are fruit and vegetable carvers from the Crowne Plaza in Kuala Lumpur. They carved an Iban  mother and child from the state of Sabah. There were a few really large ones, so tall that I cannot imagine how many people it took to carve them. Japan did a huge one of Egyptian Pharoahs and the what looked like a pyramid.

Go check out this website. The carvings are only a few days old and what is so cool is that i watched some of them taking shape! www.snowfes.com

A few blocks from this park is the Susukino street area – big shopping area. They blocked off the center of the road for several blocks and filled  them up with ice carvings of flying fish, dragons, owls, santas – all sorts!

I hope the carvings will still be here when Dave gets in next week end.

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Feb 7th

The sun came out and I went to get the street bus to take me to the cross country center. However, it was faster to walk. It took a long time to get there. I guess I may have taken it going the other direction? maybe..

I did 4 km on my classic skis. It was a great workout. I saw a lady on cross country skis in long skirt! They do the darndest thing here. Did i mention that it is free to ski and to use their equipments? People just drop by to ski. I am hoping to do this almost everyday. BTW I wore my cool hat that I just finished knitting – the kit by Kathryn Alexander. No body commented on it though and itwas really the wrong kind of hat to wear here cos it did not keep me too warm.

When i was done, the weather changed and it started to snow. it seemed to snow everyday here and cold brrrr…..As i passed by the ice scultptures near Suskino, I decided that I was hungry and I noted that on the map there is a Ramen Noodle Alley. So I went in search of it, and saw that it really was an alley, with lots of small shops off the alley. I know the good ones are those that are full with people waiting in line but I just wanted to eat and go back to the dorm, so I nipped into one. It was barely 8 feet across and about 8 to 10 people could sit around the bar. The cooks were onthe other side. I ordered Niku which is beef and it was really tasty. The soup was thick not watery. It was so yummy. However, on the walk back I started feeling so bloated I thought I was gonna burst and it was so cold! I had on two jackets and my x-c ski pants and my fingers were frozen to the bone! 

Our room was so darn cold I had to up the heater – only to 20 degrees C cos I am trying to save on the oil fuel. After a shower I hung around in the warm common room and when Lucy got home, we had salad and spaghetti from scratch. We ate about 8pm cos I was waiting for the other guys to finish cooking.

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Feb 5th

Went grocery shopping at about 1pm. Weather was nice and sunny. It started to snow hard when I left the supermarket. I had five plastic bags in one hand and a huge roller back pack full of stuff. Well, it started to blizzard and a white out!

It was tough walking without anything in your hands because of the icy and snowy pavement but try rolling a bag in those conditions! And I could not see the landmark that i so carefully noted as I left the area. So naturally I got lost, had no idea whether i was close or several streets off.

Finally, I asked a truck driver who was unloading and i said i know it is near a post office. So he took me into this building where a post man was delivering mail. The nice postman took my roller bag and hefted it on his shoulders and led me to the dormitory. He was so kind. I could hardly see through my glasses, and he delivered me right to the front door. I was so grateful to him. I was only one street off.

Tonight, I am going to cook black sauce chicken, rice and stir fry veggies, with strawberries for dessert.

Today is also the start of the snow festival. WHile it is still daylight, I am gonna walk over to the closest park, Odori park to check out the sculptures.

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