Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nyuzen Student Delegation in Forest Grove

About two weeks ago some students, a city delegate and an English teacher from the town of Nyuzen, Toyama-ken in Japan visited Forest Grove in Oregon. Forest Grove and Nyuzen are sister cities and students and officials often participate in exchanges for language study, experience of foreign life and foreign relations.

I couldn't wait to see some of my students again after almost a year! I had taught in five schools which covered every area of Nyuzen so I was sure to know most of them. I was also interested to see how they would react to being in the U.S. since many of my students were often shy about using their English.

I was to meet the delegation on Friday the 31st, Halloween. When I was in Nyuzen I would ask the students who had gone to Forest Grove what their favorite part of their trip was. The resounding answer was 'trick-or-treating.' What could be more fun than walking through a street in a foreign country where everyone gives you candy for saying a seemingly magic phrase???

Very little.

I was told I would be helping translate for the day but without much details. I speak Japanese, but poorly at best since leaving. Thinking the occassion would be casual, I dressed in slacks with a sweater which I thought would have be safe. I arrived and was told I would be the official translator for the Nyuzen city official. I found a respectable man dressed in a black suit who spoke little English. To make matters worse, we were to tour the Police Department, Power Dept, Parks and Rec dept, Waterworks, Library and Fire dept and to top it all off, have lunch with the mayor. There's only one thing you can do in a situation such as this... and I'm still trying to figure out what.

To make matter worse, I ran into traffic coming up to to Forest Grove that morning. The first stop for the delegate was the Police department. Since neither could really communicate without me, the police took liberty and had the official shoot a gun at the firing range. Now, I can't think of many things that embody America's image in the eyes of the world as being able to easily obtain a firearm. In fact, Japanese tourists will often pay top-dollar to be able to shoot a weapon in the US. So, this may have been the highlight of this man's exchange experience and I didn't have to translate anything!

Most of the remainder of the day was probably not nearly as exciting for the delegate, although for me it was very interesting trying to figure out how to explain in Japanese how a domestic power breaker works or how water is purified into a drinkable state for the city.

At the end of the day we were able to meet with my students. They had been visiting the Forest Grove schools with their host families. Their clothing and mannerisms were very distinctly Japanese, which, when in juxtapposition to Americans', struck me as interesting. We spoke in some English, some Japanese but it felt as though I was back in Japan.

The fire department had brought out their fire engine for the students to see and were giving rides up the ladder/lift. The head fireman was also feeling a bit outdone by the police dept allowing the delegate to fire a gun so they turned on the fire hose and allowed everyone to shoot it.

Finally, the students took a tour through the city to see what trick-or-treating is like. The shops offer candy for the kids on Halloween and so the Japanese students were able, while equipped with the words, "trick-or-treat," to obtain bags of sweets and other goodies. The girls loved the little children in costumes and there was no end to the '可愛い!' or kawaii, which means cute.

After we had returned to the townhall, we departed. It wasn't the last time I would see them however. I met them one final time at the airport and bade them farewell. I wanted to show them much more of my home but was content with being able to just see my friends again. Thanks for visiting Oregon!


Saturday, October 04, 2008

By Popular Demand...

My new bike, a Scott Cyclocross Comp...

...And me with the bike

Eat your heart out!

Pamelia Lake, Cheesy Poofs and Bears!

All of these things are good by themselves but even better when encountered together, which is exactly what happened last weekend.

Check out these pictures from our hike into the Jefferson wilderness and along the Pacific Crest Trail! My friends and I want to complete a good part of this in segments over the next 50 years, give or take a few, so this was good practice.

Part of the 2.3 mile hike to Pamelia Lake.

A very intimidating rock near Hanks Lake. A couple of annoying switchbacks to the top and a hour and half later...

Hunts Lake?

Some of the fall colors contrasting with the surrounding evergreens.

Jefferson at Dusk...

...and Pamelia Lake at Dawn.

If you're wondering where the bear came in, we happened to hear it [roaring] as we were packing up in the morning. It was about a mile away but kept getting closer and closer. It was like something out of a horror film, hearing but never seeing the approaching monster in the woods who thinks you or your dog would make a nice snack. Luckily I brought my whistle:P Perhaps one of the greater relizations I had was that it would have been nice to have an enclosed tent rather than a tarp!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Whaaa happen?

This may or may not come as a surprise to some of you, but I haven't blogged in a long time. So, this is my attempt at a jump-start. What I'm looking for is support. If you read this, let me know! It'll help me become motivated again.

In other news, I bought a bike! I am trying to cut down on driving and I'm hoping I can commute around my town with it whilst exercising. At 22 pounds, aluminum frame, carbon fork and aggresive tread and brakes, this Scott cyclocross doesn't take smack from no road! Unless it's bumpy.

I've never used clip-in pedals before and the day after I brought the bike home I came to a stop and had forgotten to unclip which caused me to fall over. Flustered, I quickly picked up the bike and stood up to see a couple people driving by and probably laughing at me. I'm pretty sure they were just jealous.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tel Aviv Customs

Being a single, male, somewhat well-traveled back-packer of Asian appearance in the Middle East, I can understand why I would bring attention to myself in the airport. I had no idea how much however.

I arrived at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv about 2 1/2 hours before departure knowing I might need it. I had a large hiking backpack and a small carry-on bag. I found my check-in area and was immediately taken aside for questioning. As the customs agent and her trainee looked over my passport I could see the red lights begin to flash over the former's face. "Here we go," I thought. "You've been to Egypt? What did you do there? Why were you in Jordan? Did you meet any people in Israel? You spent a lot of time in Galilee, what were you doing? When was the last time you were home? 1 1/2 years?? Why so long?" My story was rather complex which only complicated the interrogation. I didn't want to give away the fact I'd worked on an organic farm because I'm pretty sure "organic" is just an synonym for "terrorism" to the agents. Anyway, I was slightly amused by the whole affair considering I had [little] to hide.

Next, I was taken aside and both my bags and their entire contents were searched and inspected for chemical residue. This was very unamusing. In fact, I was quite vexed because I had spent an hour packing to get it just right. They spared nothing however. It was sheer ruthlessness. They scanned all of the electronics I was carrying and made me take out all my clothes, rain gear, presents, etc.

Then, as if I hadn't been completely violated, they took me into a separate room and had me take off my shoes, my neck wallet, my watch, and scanned these items. Then they patted me down; they went so far as to feel the cuffs of my sleeves and pants!

When I returned to my bag, its contents spilled carelessly around the inspection desk, I took my time repacking. I could hear the customs agent sighing in frustration which made me feel better. The whole process took about two hours. I knew I wasn't missing my plane so I couldn't be too upset but repacking my bag was annoying. When I was cleared, the check-in counter had closed and the agents took care of it. Then they took me through most of the checkpoints to get me to my plane. That was nice of them.

When I stepped on the plane, I felt like I was on the Fiesta deck of some giant cruise ship. There were kids yelling and people talking loudly. "Great," I thought. It gave me great reassurance to know I had my MP3 player. As I pulled it out and tried to turn it on, the screen stayed black. When I tried to turn it off, no luck either. It was broken. Just what I needed.

When we landed, people were clapping. If I ever wonder why I have a disposition for disliking transit in traveling, that day was all the reassurance I need!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Old City

Jerusalem! I've dreamt of walking through the city gates of this city for 6 years, and now I'm here! To explain everything in detail is impossible so I'll highlight a few of the main events over the past several days of my time here. In a different post.

Bethlehem, West Bank

Byzantine chapel, bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

West Bank wall

Byzantine chapel, Bethlehem

Lutheran church, Old City
Dome of the Rock, from the Lutheran church tower

Haredi Jews
Herod's Gate, Old City
Yad Veshem, Holocaust memorial

I found a job!
Approximately 2000 year old olive tree, Garden of Olives
Church of All Nations, Jerusalem
David's Tower, old city

Jewish Graveyard, Jerusalem

Mary's Tomb, Mt. Zion, Jerusalem

Arab Market, Old City
The Western Wall

Via Dolorosa, The path of the Passion, Old City

David's City

Muslim holy day, Old City

where a seal bearing a name from the Bible was discovered, David's City, Jerusalem

Outer wall, Old City

The Holy Sepulchre, Old City

Via Dolorosa

Dome of the Rock

Where the Romans scourged Jesus, Via Dolorosa

From my dorm room, two streets from the Via Dolorosa!