Saturday, November 28, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
I will first visit St. Olaf’s Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak and then spend Saturday sight seeing with the other Rotary exchange students. KTP (as they call her at Olaf) has been the most welcoming, cooperative, and insightful host to work with. I cannot wait for what lies ahead! I know it will be a week I remember for the rest of my life…
So until next Sunday- Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and be sure to take a satisfying turkey-induced nap for me! All my best, Sam.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It’s always a good day when your ears pop! Because here in Tochigi that means you went to the mountains and who doesn’t love the mountains?? That's the Nasu mountain range on the right, the view from Nakagawa is distant but still reassuring. I have discovered that I take comfort in mountains, they're something that doesn't change on you. I was invited by the Rotary Club President Mr. Okawa and his wife for another fun day of sightseeing in beautiful Nasu-Machi, an hour north of my town. It is a large mountainside town that is bustling with tourists from the cities. We chatted about this and that while making our way up into the foothills, then into the forest, only to emerge in quaint Nasu village. It is now a major Ski resort area, so there are in fact several gigantic hotels set overlooking the Kanto plain below. Along the main street are tiny shops and cafés.
I spent over an hour sitting in the warm, eclectic, and intriguing antique store of Mrs. Okawa’s friend. It was filled with odds and ends from around the world, and yet had many beautiful Japanese items as well. The Okawa’s were so generous and gave me a special little something that I in turn plan on gifting to my antique-loving parents. So I won’t tell you what it is just yet, but it was so kind of them. We also stopped off at a pottery and glass store just to peak inside. The crafts here are so unique.
After the antiques shop we headed to a petting zoo. Yes you heard me right, a petting zoo. There is a funny little “ranch” on one of the slopes that is basically a child’s heaven. It has sheep, goats, rabbits, donkeys, ponies, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, fish, dogs and cats. I laughed when I realized that at some point or another my family has actually owned every single one of those animals! Although those animals are all common farm critters here, I am reminded that to the Japanese moose, raccoons, coyotes, and porcupines are foreign and bizarre. Just like monkeys, tanukis, and koi are different to me. It's sometimes strange to realize that zoos around the world have animals you see in your own backyard (not implying that I have moose or porcupines in my backyard...)
Next came lunch at a very famous bakery and restaurant called Penny Lane. It is entirely modeled after the Beatles and people come from far and wide to have lunch in the cozy English living rooms, sip coffee in the garden gazebo, or just grab a quick loaf of blueberry swirl bread for which they are nationally famous (I of course bought a loaf, I miss blueberries more than I expected). Lunch was gigantic. I ordered a mozzarella cheeseburger, as it was one of the cheaper things on the menu. I can’t imagine how a poor Japanese child could ever have finished this beast of a patty, (real!) sesame seed bun, veggies, ham, and cheese that they unloaded before me. It even came with a side order of mashed potatoes to boot! But it was truly delicious.
One our way back home they stopped off at a busy little store devoted to candles and Christmas decorations. I looked so hard for a good Japanese Santa, Mom, but they love American and European Christmas decorations so there really isn’t anything L Hopefully you’ll find something back home for this year’s ornament. It did make me yearn for Christmas though! They had music, burning candles, decorations, Christmas trees, and even stockings hung up. It’s going to be so difficult to be away from home this holiday season, I’m choosing not to think about it too much. One last stop at an art gallery to visit their friend and we were on our way back to Nakagawa. Amazing how a day can either zoom by or drag on yet it’s exactly the same number of seconds…