Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drip Drop Diary

As I stated last night I needed to update more frequently, I'm starting immediately :) Today was a Monday - a rainy Monday at that. Luckily it wasn't raining too hard on my way to school, so I didn't have to change clothes when I got there (although I was prepared with them in my backpack!), but coming home was a different story! I was soaked through by the time I reached the top of my hill and tomorrow evening is supposed to bring quote "heavy rains"...so it looks like I will be getting wet again. As soon as I finished arriving at the top of my hill dripping in sweat, I began arriving at the top of my hill just plain dripping! Oh the joys of being a bike owner. Speaking of, I emailed the car dealer today, and he's looking for a car. He said it might be a week or two...we'll hope it's just one week, not two!

I only had one class today - today the students had to take their phy ed test, so classes were switched around, tomorrow the first year students (sophomores) will be gone and Wednesday all the students will be on a field trip. I am joining the seniors on their trip to Kamakura, which has the second largest Buddha in Japan. Hopefully we can see a few things despite the forcast for heavy rain. Either way, with the long bus ride I think we will only spend a few hours actually there anyway.

Tonight I got to meet up with one of my predecessor's friends. He lived in Canada for a little while and traveled and studied in the United States, so he speaks pretty good English. He doesn't have a lot of opportunity to speak it anymore, so we are going to meet once a week just so he can practice his English. As I learn more Japanese, I hope that I will be able to use him as a resource as well to practice my Japanese. It was refreshing to meet someone my own age who is actually Japanese. I love my ALT friends, but I also came to Japan to meet local people and hopefully make Japanese friends, and this is my first hopeful. It's hard to meet people when you don't speak the language, and I'm a little bit of a hermit during the week since I'm so far away from the main part of the city. Again...can't wait for the car!

So that was basically my day - tomorrow I don't have a whole lot to do, hopefully I won't be falling asleep on my desk! It's so hard when it's raining outside the window right by my desk...makes me want to curl up in bed and drift into dreamland. Speaking of, I better do that right now - it's 12:30.

Good Night!

p.s. If you have any questions about Japan or my life here, feel free to leave questions as a comment here, or send me an email and I will answer in my blog!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A weekful of adventures!

This week has been by far my busiest week yet, hence the lack of posts. I really should start posting more frequent shorter posts - sorry for the novels once a week! On Monday night I headed to Fuji with Dion to meet up with Kelly and Kory, two ALTs in the next city. We had a great time over a mini-feast Japanese style. I felt like I had eaten sashimi (raw fish, no rice) non-stop for the weekend cuz I had eaten it at my welcome enkai too. I'm coming around to the whole raw fish thing, Nicole, you would be proud. We also had some other Japanese delights - crab cakes, soy beans, soba and udon, gyoza, and of course in true Japanese fashion, a large beer to wash it all down with. The men at the next table had a mini-keg, we didn't take it quite that far!

Tuesday was Autumnal Equinox Day, so I planned an excursion for the Fuji area ALTs to go hiking. I plan these "excursions" quite blindly, considering I speak nor read Japanese, but I do have a desire to check out things in the area and it's always more fun with others! We ventured to Lake Tanukiko, an artificial lake in Fujinomiya, but still about an hours bus ride. The lake is surrounded my mountains covered in trees with a bunch of hiking trails. We had quite a mixed group and none of us was really up for hardcore hiking, so we just stuck to the pleasant walking trail around the lake. There were fisherman around the perimeter, waiting for a catch that was actually big enough to take home and eat! The lake is famous for having the reflection of Mt. Fuji in it, making a diamond - it was too cloudy for us, but we did get one sneak peak at Fuji-san. On the way back a few of us took a stop off at Shiraito Waterfalls again - my friend Kari had come up from her home on the peninsula and so we wanted to help make it worth her while! It was a beautiful day and the lighting was nice at that time of day. We finished off with some famous Yakisoba in a local restaurant when we arrived back near the station. It was a long day after staying out late the night before in Fuji, but a lot of good conversation and pretty sights.

Wednesday was a hectic day at school, one I'd rather not write about cuz I'd probably just be complaining, and I don't want to do that. So - it was busy and long, but Thursday I got to leave school at 11 AM! It was an amazing day. I needed to go to Shizuoka City (the capital of my prefecture) to get my re-entry permit from the Immigration Office. It took me about an hour and a half to get there, but getting the actual permit only took 5 minutes...so I explored the big city for a little bit! I wandered through stores and did some window shopping, ate at Subway in honor of my years of service there (haha...it was close to the same actually, pretty amazing), and even at Cold Stone Ice Cream - I had no idea there was Cold Stone in any other country, let alone Japan. It wasn't quite the same, but still cool to see familiar places. I also visit the import store and bought some stuff to make Mexican food - Tortillas, enchilada sauce and refried beans. Soooo awesome!

This weekend was also eventful, as I had overnight guests on Friday night (some ALTs from my area) in preparation for White Water Rafting on Saturday! White water rafting was a lot of fun - the rapids in this area really aren't that challenging or scary, but our tour guide was very fun. When we were in the calmer parts of the water we had water wars, flipped the raft and swam around, had battles to see who could stand on the outside edge of the raft the longest while it was spinning around, and jumped off the side of the cliffs into the river. I met a whole bunch of new ALTs that work in my area - I've already met all of the first year ALTs, but this was a great chance to meet a few people who have been here for 2 or 3 years. There were some really fun people and I am so glad that I took this opportunity to try something new! I also met a girl who bought a car from an English-speaking car dealer, so I got his information and am going to be calling tomorrow to get started on finding a used car in my budget! It was an all around awesome day that I wrapped up by making enchiladas. It was the first time I used my small oven, so it was a good adventure that turned out amazing!

Tomorrow it's back to the working world, but it's a mild week for me this week, as it's a week of field trips for the students. I only have to teach two classes and English club and on Wednesday I get to go on the field trip with the seniors to Kamakura, a city not too far from here. I hope we get to see some cool stuff, although I think much of our day will be spent on the bus. I will get to hang out a bit with one of the English teachers that I don't teach with, but really enjoy talking to. I hope it will be a productive day for relationships and fun with some cool sightseeing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away

Happy Monday!

Today it seems all it has done is rain and rain and rain, and it's making me tired. Plus I don't have school tomorrow and am planned up basically for the next three weeks (I have two weeks break for midterms after this one!) So, in my absense of work, I thought I would tell you about this weekend that was quite the non-adventure :)

Friday night was my welcome enkai put on by the English teachers at my school. We went to a local restaurant despite the incoming typhoon (which people were worried about at the time, but really it was just a lot of rain, no real typhoon from what I experienced). I tried a bunch of Japanese food that was quite interesting including some different types of sashimi (raw fish), yakitori (one of my faves, basically grilled meat kabobs), salad, whole cooked shrimp (yowzers, had to take off the entire head, legs and shell…), and a few other things I can’t remember the names to – pickled Japanese plum wrapped in meat(??? that’s what they told me it was, but it didn’t really taste like it…it was actually good), and a Korean hot pot that included rice and veggies, and it was a nice change because it was spicy! Nothing Japanese has much flavor really…it’s a different non-flavor flavor :) Overall it was a pretty decent time, although I was a little lost most of the time because everyone was speaking in Japanese. They stopped every once in awhile to fill me in!

Saturday and Sunday I spent most of the day just lounging, did a little cleaning, caught up on some tv shows online, and went grocery shopping. I think it was needed to catch up in life because I have been gone so many weekends in a row. It was also pretty cloudy and rainy, so it was nice to just stay in and relax and sleep in!! Tomorrow is a National Holiday, so we don’t have school – I have a hike planned for near Lake Tanukiko, a lake that mirrors Mt. Fuji. Today it’s raining cats and dogs however (one of my students said that to me the other day and it made me laugh), so we’ll have to see how the weather is tomorrow.

I am also trudging forward in Winter Break planning. I am looking at doing a trip to Thailand, but not just to travel. I want to volunteer with a group through the JET program who are going to Baan Unrak, or "House of Joy." It’s a primary school and children's home (orphanage) operated by the Ananda Marga yoga group. It’s located in Sangkhlaburi town, Kanchanaburi province, in western Thailand near the Myanmar border. Things we might do would be putting on a Christmas party, environmental day or town clean-up, English teaching, art classes, playing with the kids, and building or maintenance projects. That’s really the most specific information that I have right now, but I emailed for more and am planning on signing up for the trip. It’s possible I might travel a little after volunteering as well. Looking at all there is to do was making unbelievable excited last night! Can’t wait to update you more on the trip…there is still a possibility lurking around of going to China instead, so we’ll see!

Hope everything at home is going well!! Love you and Miss you all!

Friday, September 19, 2008


It has been an interesting week. I spent the 3 day weekend in Tokyo with Jenny (see pictures at flickr.com/jans0176/sets – there is a link on the left side of this page). We frolicked off into the big city, dreaming of Starbucks and people under the age of 25 or maybe for Jenny I should say 27 :). We planned to meet at one of the exits of Tokyo station, oblivious to the fact that Tokyo station is HUGE and Jenny doesn’t have a cell phone. An hour later after both of us lurking in the same places and still missing each other, I saw her across the bus platform and was shouting her name and waving frantically. We bustled off to the subway, excited to finally be in Tokyo and finally find each other. We found the right line, and hopped into the crowded subway car. We were good to go. But wait…the train stops at the next major station and all of a sudden a sea of people is trying to break free from the subway – and the blonde Gaijin from America get pushed off the train walking backwards like a fish trying to swim upstream. Finally the girls get the hint and step off the train themselves, allowing people to get off and then enter into the much emptier car. “Welcome to Tokyo” the gods said.

Come to find out, this somewhat traumatizing episode was nothing compared to Tokyo rush hour during the week. They have a job here for a person called a “pusher.” Their job is to hang out on the platforms during rush hour, and when the train is packed, there are still usually 30-40 people standing on the platform. The pusher’s job is to push those 30 people onto the train by literally pushing and packing them into the subway car. I didn’t actually see this happen, although I was on some pretty full subways. Dave, a friend/sorta relative of Jenny’s that lives in Tokyo, is the one that told us about this, and he said that literally you can stand on the subway, pick up your feet, and you will go up, not down. I still can’t wrap my head around this and will not be ever riding the subway during rush hour in Tokyo! Insane! After finally making it to our hostel after 11 pm, Jenny and I devoured some Domino’s pizza with Christina, another JET from Shizuoka that we randomly ran into...in Tokyo, the largest city in the world.... Fate brought us together into the same hostel at the same exact time. Weird.

Saturday it seemed we didn’t get a lot accomplished. We went to Senso-Ji, one of the temples right near our hostel. Conveniently, this website has a brief summary. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3001.html

We walked down the Nakamise shopping street and headed over to buy our sumo tickets. When purchasing our sumo tickets, interestingly enough we were approached by a Japanese musician with long hair and glasses. He introduced himself and proceeded to try to convince us to buy a box with him in the Japanese-style seating where you are so close you can “hear the wrestler’s breathe” (which, by the way was a total lie, we were so not that close haha). We gave in, deciding that if we were gonna go, it would be better to get the better seats than pay what was still sorta a lot of money for nosebleed section seats. We got our tickets and parted ways with the mysterious Japanese man who apparently owns a house in Seville. Intriguing. After that we headed out to the Imperial Gardens, got some authentic Japanese cuisine (so hard to find here), and then headed over to Shiba Park and the Tokyo Tower. The Tokyo Tower is constructed after the Eiffel Tower, but not quite as cool and much more commercialized (we’re talking about an amusement park, wax museum and Guinness World Records Museum…) and it also has tons of satellites on it for companies around Tokyo. We spent the night with Dave’s family, who apparently lives next to some big music star which Dave’s 11-year-old son referred to as “the Brad Pitt of Japan.” Wow. Talk about classy Tokyo :)

Sunday we stopped at Shibuya crossing for some Starbucks (and to watch the sea of people cross the street while traffic sat still on all sides) and then headed off to Meiji-jingu, “Tokyo’s most splendid shrine” according to Lonely Planet Guidebook…I didn’t think it was all that special, although it was quite large and had about 4 weddings going on while we were there. I think I am going to definitely be shrined and templed out before I leave here since I am already kinda like “meh…” We tried unsuccessfully to do the Goth watching at Yoyogi Park (maybe because it was a holiday weekend and quite hot out, no one wanted to come?) and headed off to Sumo. Sumo was alright, our company (the Japanese musician and his friend) was interesting and sumo was pretty fun to watch. There is a lot of ritual involved and the ratio of ritual to fighting is like 10 to 1. The bouts only last about 20 seconds, and then there is like 5 minutes of stuff in between that gets a little boring after watching for an hour. Either way, it was cool to say we did it. We went up to the top of Tokyo Tower at night and then explored the area around Shibuya crossing, returning later to Dave’s families’ house exhausted.

Before coming home on Monday, we again explored Shibuya, heading into the 109, a popular store among the younger crowd (maybe like 25 and under). The fashion here is crazy, lots of high heels, fur, overalls, and more weird stuff I can’t think of right now. So that was our trip. Sorry if that bored you too much :)

At school it was a short week for me since we had Monday off and I actually got to leave 3 hours early yesterday. Today I have to stay after school for English Club who are having a welcome party for me, then I am helping a student who is in the English speech contest, and then tonight is my Welcome Enkai with the Japanese Teachers of English. It should be interesting, I am a little nervous to be in a social situation with all these coworkers. Apparently welcome enkais are usually a good time to get chummy with the other teachers and that people get pretty friendly and talkative after they have had a few drinks. A time for release because all the people do here is overwork themselves it seems. One of the teachers just said to me "Tonight we drink at our own risk" because there is a typhoon approaching. Hilarious. I don’t have a lot on the agenda this weekend, so you could try to call me on my new number if you have free time :) I will try to leave my computer on at all times! Sayonara!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Loving Life

I am loving life today. Even though I had to walk to school in the rain, my classes went well and on my way home from school a random Japanese woman stopped her bike and started talking to me in English. She ended up offering to call and have the bike shop pick up my bike from school tomorrow, fix it, and return it. We shall see when I get to school tomorrow, but it really made my day. Got back from Tokyo on Monday, so only 4 days of school this week. I have to stay after school Wednesday and Friday, but I get to leave at like 1 pm on Thursday, so it should be wonderful :) Will update soon with info about Tokyo and the upcoming weekend. I hope all of you are doing well and travel safely, as I know many of you are travelling soon! Enjoy yourselves and get in touch with me when you return!! Love ya, Ash

Friday, September 12, 2008

School Life

Oh how time flies – it’s Friday!!! This was my first real week of work, it really gave me a taste of what my life will be like the next year. One week is a small taste, but my schedule is mostly the same from week to week except for the weeks that I don’t teach at all (I don’t teach during midterm exam time)…so apparently those days I get to come to school and do nothing again, like I did over summer vacation.

So my new job is writing one lesson plan per week and I teach that lesson 6 times. Twice on Monday, Twice on Tuesday and Twice on Wednesday. I work with 3 different teachers, so not only is the atmosphere different because there are different students, but also each teacher operates a little differently. It will be interesting to see how that affects my teaching in each of the classes. Overall things were good with my lesson. The game that I had the students play was great – but the directions were much too complicated. Therefore, the ratio of explanation to actual talk time for students was not a good one in my opinion. Therefore, I have altered next week’s lesson plan accordingly. I think my teachers were happy with how class went, it is hard to tell because of the communication and culture gap, but one of my teachers today told me that she was very happy with class. She said that even though it was my first time in front of this group of kids and in Japan, it didn’t seem like it because I was very confident, had great pace (ugh…so hard to talk slow sometimes!) and good volume (yes….I speak very loud, I love my teacher voice haha). I am going to assume that the other teachers share her opinion, so I’m overall happy. I really could use more work, I was done with everything by Wednesday (minus making a copy here and there), so yesterday and today were mainly dedicated to me reading, planning for Tokyo, and just relaxing and trying to not fall asleep at my desk haha. I will begin teaching a 2 hour adult conversation class in October, so that will fill up one night of my week and a little more of my workday time to maybe make me feel as if I am doing more! I also have a language exchange set up with one of my predecessor’s friends, so we will be meeting weekly and I will help him with his English and he will help me with my Japanese. I hope that it will be helpful!

Woo! Alright, that was sorta dry and boring, but at least you have an idea of my school life. I am headed to Tokyo this weekend with Jenny! Can’t wait to get out and about and sightsee! Hope all is well at home!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shimoda Fun

Go Figure - I get internet at home and it still takes me about a week to update :) In my defense, I'm actually having to work now that school has started haha.

After the opening ceremony on Tuesday, I had a pretty free week until Friday. Friday was my first chance to work with the students in English Club. English club isn't like class, it's basically all for fun - but in English. So I had the students play a game to learn about me. They seemed to enjoy it and it was at the perfect level for them - go me! After that they did a fill in the blank with song lyrics - listened to the song and filled in words, but I made it MUCH too hard for them. Hopefully I will do better this week. I'm just glad the self introduction game went over well so the day wasn't a total bust.

Festival Food! Banana on a Stick!

After English club on Friday I headed to Shimoda to visit Jenny. Shimoda is a beach town down on the Izu peninsula in my prefecture. It's a beach getaway for almost everyone in Tokyo, which means most of the time the beaches are full. We went to the Big Shower (not sure bout the name....it's Japan is all I can say!) Festival - good festival food, sun, the ocean, and fireworks. Not too shabby. Before arriving at the beach Jenny and I took the scenic route and checked out a bunch of Shrines on the way. We also walked about 2 hours longer than we needed to if we had just taken the bus. Oh well - live and learn...and then lay down exhausted at the beach to tan even though the sun is almost down. I'm surprised Jenny didn't kill me. She's going through sun withdrawals because she lived in Hawaii for the past two years, and I took all of her sun time with my scenic route. We had fun anyway. Sunday we set out early to be sure that we made it to the beach in time, and I got scorched. Mission accomplished since it will turn into tan in a few days. We also had lots of time to plan our trip to Tokyo for next weekend - cannot wait!!!!

A few pics from Shimoda....

Today I taught my first two lessons. Things went pretty well. It is hard because I have to do the same activities with every class, yet each class is at a different level of understanding English. The teacher I worked with today spoke a lot of Japanese in class. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet, but hopefully the kids will actually try to listen to the things that I say in English instead of just relying on the teacher to translate it. I teach with two different teachers tomorrow for two classes - and teach two classes on Wednesday. This week is really giving me a taste of the amount of work that I will have to do. One lesson plan per week isn't too much, but since I only have one to do, I try to do something really good and something that the kids will really enjoy (and hopefully that it will really help them with their language haha!). Today was the first day that I spent at work that I actually spent the entire day working and not doing things like checking my email and facebook incessantly. Hopefully I will stay remotely busy. I'll keep you posted on that one ;)

I'll leave you with my funny story of the day. My lesson today was on telephone conversations, so we warmed up by playing the telephone game. The phrase that I gave the students was pretty challenging, and one line apparently decided to give up on it and the boy in the back of the line came up and used the line "Ashley is beautiful!" It definitely made me laugh - the kid gets brownie points, but no sticker (the reward for the winners of the game). Hope everyone has an amazing week.

I've been trying to catch up on posting pictures - I have pictures posted of the Mt. Fuji Climb, Shiraito Falls (waterfalls in my city) and the Fujinomiya Festival and my apartment. I will be adding more soon and obviously after my trip to Tokyo! Hope everything is well back in the states.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Opening Ceremony

So yesterday’s blog was dedicated to Mt. Fuji, but I also had another big event yesterday. The opening ceremony for second semester at school. The students here have summer break after first semester for the months of July and August. During this time most of them are at school anyway doing club activities like baseball, tennis, English club, calligraphy, archery, etc. + they go to study camp for a week where they have class and study for like 10 hours a day. But in true Japanese fashion, there needs to be an opening ceremony anyway. The principal got up and talked and introduced new teachers (me and one other Japanese teacher). I got to go first of course, which means I had absolutely no clue what was going on. One Japanese teacher herded me in the right direction toward the stage. Wasn’t sure if I was supposed to bow/when I was supposed to bow and then I got to sit in a chair while the principal introduced me. I got up to give my speech in Japanese (rote memorization!) to 800 students + the faculty. The speech went pretty well, albeit slightly shorter than the Japanese teachers speech :)

Then again I wasn’t sure what to do because no one had told me so I fumbled around on stage pointing to the stairs and the principal started leading me that way…then changed his mind and I walked back across stage to my chair haha…then the English club president welcomed me in English and the band played the national anthem. It was pretty sweet, although slightly awkward since I was standing in front of a group of 800 high schoolers…thought about grabbing the microphone and singing karaoke style, but instead just stood awkwardly and smiled? oh wow. Finally I was escorted back down off the stage. The Japanese teacher didn’t know exactly what she was supposed to be doing either, which made me feel a lot better about all the fumbling haha. So, I’m now officially a part of Fujinomiya Nishi High School. Glad the initiation is over.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mt. Fuji Officially Conquered

And I survived the Mt. Fuji climb. It was a grueling 6 hours of climbing in the dark over loose lava rock, large stones, finding the guide ropes to stay on the path (my flashlight died half-way up the mountain, so I had to rely on the lights of others), and in random spots, shoddily constructed steps of rock and wood. The pain in my legs today is the only thing that makes it seem real that I actually did it. Otherwise, it seems like it was a dream – a mostly bad dream at that :) The climb is quite difficult, and I have absolutely no idea how grandmas and children climb the thing, because apparently it’s a frequent thing for them to do so.

I started climbing at Station 5 which sits at 2400 meters (7874 feet)– took a bus to here and climbed up the Fujinomiya Route. There are other stations along the way to take a rest and get food and water, as well as a first aid station at Station 8. Station 10 is at the top. Our group was really lucky, it only rained for about 15 minutes and it was near the lower stations where it wasn’t as cold. Last weekend it rained almost the entire night, so climbers had to be extremely miserable…and let’s just say climbing was pretty miserable most of the way anyway. I climbed mostly in a group of 5. We took short frequent breaks to allow our heart rate to go down (it’s amazing how hard my heart was beating in my chest!!) along the way and longer breaks of 10-20 minutes at each station. We began climbing at 10:00 pm and arrived at Station 10 at 4:15 am, so we paced it just about perfectly. That gave us time to hike up another smaller hill near the crater to watch the sunrise on the east side of Mt. Fuji. It was crazy at the top to be literally above the clouds and see the patches of cities below and in between clouds. Before reaching the peak, the night lights in the distance were so beautiful – they kept me going, along with a little oxygen every now and then. 1 in 4 people get altitude sickness – luckily I wasn’t one of them, but decided that since I had to pay for the oxygen anyway, I might as well use it up :) It was nice on breaks and put me instantly in a better mood – apparently my brain was lacking the oxygen it needed haha. Maybe I should bring that tank to school!

I took in the sunrise cuddled up next to my climbing buddies for warmth. I actually didn’t wear all the layers that I brought up the mountain, mostly because I didn’t want to bother with putting them on just to take them off again on my way down. After watching the sunrise over the aerial view of Numazu, Jenny Dion and I continued to the literal highest point of the peak which sits at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet). Here is the weather station and a monument dedicated to the highest point in Japan. It took a lot of energy to climb that extra bit after going all the way up the mountain, but I didn’t wanna wuss out after all that way!! There is also a temple that you can also hike to once you reach the top and you can also hike around the crater, but we decided not to do it for time sake. I still saw the crater, just not every side view.

Coming down took about 4 hours, but with a lot of breaks along the way to take in the view (when we weren’t stuck in the middle of a cloud). I honestly can’t say which was worse, going up or down. Going up was extremely hard, but I couldn’t see my destination (save a bright light coming from each station), so it was just focusing on the moment at hand and pushing as hard as I could. Coming down however, you could see how far you really had to go, and it was hard not to think “man that station looks far away…and there’s more after that!!” Coming down was pretty dangerous as well. The loose rock and steeper grade makes for an interesting descent. I actually fell like three times in some loose spots, but I was playing it safe, so they were only small falls. I actually saw a guy take a huge spill. In some spots it’s actually easier to just like shuffle-run down the loose rocks and gravel, but this guy apparently thought it would be easier to run down the entire thing even among the huge stones. Not the brightest guy. He went flying probably about 30 meters, doing a few somersaults and tumbling over rocks before coming to a stop. He apparently broke his wrist – he’s really lucky he didn’t land on his head!! I can’t imagine having to come the rest of the way down (this was near the top before even the 9th station on the way down) with a broken arm!! Definitely made me be super careful on the way down!!!

The trek took a toll on my mind and body, considering I not only stayed up all night long, but I was actually climbing all night long. I arrived back to my apartment about 12:30 pm the next day to prepare myself for giving a speech the next morning at school for the opening ceremony. The moral of this story: if you come visit me and want to climb Mt. Fuji, you will have to BEG and BRIBE me to do that again. Awesome experience, not to be repeated too many times, but worth the exertion. I hope you all had an amazing Labor Day weekend – my 3 day weekend is coming up in a few weeks. Have a great week!

Internet coming this week - pictures will arrive by Friday :)