Tuesday, April 28, 2009

しゅう 字 (calligraphy)

I have been taking calligraphy lessons here in Japan for about 6 months now. I go every Friday night (or almost every Friday) for anywhere between one and two hours. (The class is from 7-9 and you can come and go for any amount of time between there). I find calligraphy to be relaxing and so enjoyable that I am usually there for the whole two hours!

About 3 weeks ago I received an email from one of my teachers who had set up this calligraphy class for me. My calligraphy teacher contacted her to inform me of an art showing in the area this summer. All types of art will be included-photography, calligraphy paints and sculptures-and my teacher wanted me to enter a calligraphy piece.

2 weeks ago at class I learned about my entry. It was 2 kanji that together means "moving lively." They are very pretty together. I will be doing a style of calligraphy that is more flow-y looking...almost messy (but that isn't the right way to say it). I practiced the proper stroke order and movement to learn the kanji. I failed more than usual (they are really hard kanji!) but eventually mostly to them down.

Last week at calligraphy class I learned my entry will be on a piece of paper that is 180 cm long (to give you an idea-I am 172 cm tall!). It is HUGE! The brush I am using is about as thick around as a softball and the bristles are kind of floppy. It was really hard to control and I would splatter ink everywhere. I was told that this was ok...it is part of the look of the piece.

I would spread the paper down and walk down the paper as I wrote.

I used a small bucket with watered down ink.

My feet were BLACK when I was done!!!
(a totally finished piece-not the best one but pretty good!)

The little kanji on the left side are my name kanji. My name in Japanese is ko-rin
My name kanji is:
こ=子 (meaning little)
りん=鈴 (meaning bell)

Monday, April 27, 2009


And for our Japanese lesson of the day...
見-see, look view (verb)
桜-sakura (cherry blossom!)

That season is here...the cherry blossoms have made EVERYTHING pink and it is just beautiful.

There is always a predicted weekend in every prefecture on when the cherry blossoms will be at their prime...and of course...we celebrate that like there is no tomorrow. Over the secondish week in May was the prime time here in Niigata. The festivals for flower viewing feel over the weekend of May 11-12. There were cherry blossom parties everywhere and we were not about to miss out on it!

A large group of ALTs (and others) planned to meet in Joetsu (south part of Niigata prefecture) at the Joetsu Castle, Takada, which is a famous viewing spot (number 3 for night viewing we heard!)

We had the perfect spot, right on the water, under tons of blossoms and a great view of castle. We threw down our tarps, hit the stands for delicious matsuri food and toasted to a beautiful day.

(Laura, me and Mark with our food and drink...)

Yes, we started drinking around 1....hey, it was 5:00 somewhere....

(a small group of us toasting to the blossoms)

The view from our spot...

and the trees we sat under...

And the matsuri is full of lots of fun things like cool picture opportunities...

the best takoyaki (octopus ball) EVER (yes...that is a WHOLE octopus in each ball...YUMMY!!!)

and games...(you have to catch as many goldfish as you can before the rice paper paddle falls apart)


Obviously the place to be...

Many views from around the park...

(up close)

(Sakura road-very busy!)

(the castle)

We went for many walks to stay warm...and had races up the hill...Dave won and Marshall and I each owed him 50 yen...


(Laura and I)

(Dave and I)

And then night fell...Takada park lived up to its fam...the night viewing was amazing...

(but it was COLD! Marshall and I)

(A view from where we were sitting)

(blossoms and boats on the water!)

(Sakura road at night!)

(and up close)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


We finally got to have real showers! We were back at the hotel in Lae and enjoying our last night together. We enjoyed the hotel-swimming, reading and having dinner together. We all went to bed early (or mostly early) because we had to be out of the hotel at 3:30 to catch our plane.

We had a 5 am flight from Lae or Port Morsby and then a 3 hour lay over in there...in the second most dangerous capital in the world! We took a bus around the city...going to a HUGE grocery store, the government building and then back to the airport.

The government building is famous for the giant mural on one of the walls. The mural was designed with representatives from as many tribes as possible (the government wanted to create a mural that represented as many of the 850 tribes as possible!). It is a really cool mosaic!

An attempt to get the whole thing....

And the best view is of course....

With this it was time to say good-bye to PNG. It was a very sad and tearful good-bye....and with this...I can't wait to go back!

Friday, April 17, 2009

PNG-Bau (the beach vacation!)

DAY 1:

We had to get back to Bau....back in the banana boats! We took 3 boats as usual but for the last leg of the trip (15 minutes) we crammed all 20 us into one boat...it was painful. We squished in, sat on top of each other!

and the boat....it was hard to get a picture of boat when you can't really move!

We also saw tons of palm trees along the way...which made me really happy! This grove of trees looked JUST like the cover of the children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" We tried to capture it but were not totally successful...

We had 2 more days in the jungle. We were out of the river and back on the Solomon Sea. We were back at Bau and could actually enjoy it this time. The beach was endless, the sea was a perfect blue and the sand was clean and white.

We arrived and were ready for a relaxing afternoon on the beach. The view was amazing....we enjoyed swimming, reading on the beach and relaxing.

just beautiful....

We also did some henna tattooing too...

DAY 2:

We started day two off with a couple of school visits. We were greeted at Bau Elementary and then another school a little further down the river. At this second school (with a name that is slipping me!) we got an amazing greeting. There were tons of dances and gifts.

The kids presented our leader Christian with tons of gifts for everyone. The dancing was wonderful. Later there were many more dances in which we joined in on.

The kids from our own clan gave each of us presents.

They gave us many necklaces.

And introduced themselves.

After this visit it was time to head to Bau island for lunch and snorkeling. The hike across the jungle is wonderful...

and the snorkeling was amazing (the water was shallow but the coral and fish were cool!)

DAY 3:

and this morning it was time to say good-bye to Bau...it was beautiful and sad to go...

Align Center

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PNG-the journey home (Siagara 2)

We had one more night in Siagara.

We had a great time but pictures were not taken! We swam and played with the kids in the afternoon. Played more games of "Uno", "Go Fish," and "Set" in the evening. Overall...it was a great and sad closing to the jungle.

That night the people of Siagara had a bonfire for us. The bonfire was HUGE! It was also lit in the traditional way. To do this, you rub a small stick (of hard word) on a large branch of soft word. It creates an indent and also creates a lot dust. Eventually it will start to smoke and if you can rub hard enough and fast enough you will finally get one ember. That ember is then put onto some dry bush and blown on until a small fire is created...and that small fire is used to lit the big bonfire.

After our bonfire was lit they performed a garden burning dance for us. It was an awesome dance. The kids also performed some songs and dances too.

PNG-the meat (aka-Pema)

We finally arrived. WE ARE HERE! (It only took 6 days to get to our actual destination!) Life in Pema was looking good. We first arrived at the school (a 45 minute boat ride down the river from the village and our guest house). We were late (as was a theme on this trip it seems....however, most of us, including me, had no idea what time it was for 2 weeks).

We spent 4 nights in Pema. Here was our adventures:

DAY 1:

We left Siagara late, but who knows what time it actually was. We took the banana boats up the river about 3 hours. We stopped along the river for lunch and swimming. These are the banana boats:

On the boat we were able to try beetle nut. (the drug of choice for the country). It was horrible. Totally bitter. I explained more about beetle nut in a past post so hopefully you remember. The right way to eat it is with lime and mustard root but we did not have all that. The nut alone is horrible.

First you have to bit off the top:

Then "peel" it using your teeth: (That part in the middle is what you eat.)

This is how I felt after chewing it... (and I couldn't stop making that face for almost an hour-the bitterness would not leave my mouth!)

We finally arrived at school and were given such a warm welcome. The area was all decorated!

We saw the building sight and introduced ourselves to the kids. (normally the school is almost built by the time we arrive but because this village is so far up the river it was hard and time consuming to get building supplies up there. They were a little behind schedule!)

We drank coconut milk right from the coconut (cut open with a machete right there for us!)

After being at school it was time to "settle in at home." 45 more minutes up the river in the boat and we arrived at the guest house. It was a beautiful guest house. We had a great view of the river!

We were given another warm welcome when we got to the guesthouse.

And then what better way to end the day than with a tour of the village? We were able to chat with some of the people and play with the kids. The houses were pretty simple but I noticed that there were many styles. All houses were set up with an open seating area down stairs and sleeping areas up stairs (or so we all guessed!).

and a view down the street...

DAY 2:

To begin being a part of the tribe we had to become members of the tribe. All the new members of the group needed to be given their clan. People who had been before lined up with members of their respected clan and us newbies lined up in front of them.

We were then taken one by one to become members of a clan. I think it was pretty random overall. There were some special cases that had to be taken into consideration like some member's father had to be in a different clan then them (as clan relationship is passed down threw the mother) and the one married couple had to be up into different clans (because you cannot marry within your clan!). This is how I became a Bego.

Each clan has a special skill. My clan's special skill is hunting and specifically-pigs! When it is singsing time....a member of the Bego clan will be picking out the pig that will be eaten. If you have problems with your livestock-you visit a Bego and when it is hunting time-you should join a Bego!

Here I am being escorted into my clan...

After we were part of the clan the kids sang songs for us!

After we all had our clans it was time to get to work. We started the morning off with a hike up the mountain to the logging area. The tribe was given this awesome logging machine in order to support and boost the local economy. In normal logging situations, a tree is cut down and then moved to a mill. However, this mill can be taken apart and rebuilt quickly so instead of moving the whole tree to the mill...they bring the mill to the tree. After learning about it and watching them cut logs...we were told to grab a 2x4 and start walking down the mountain!

View from about half way down-it was so beautiful. You can see it all here...gardens, jungles, mountains and the river!

We did do a little work (digging) but after lunch it was time for some fun with the kids. I wasn't feeling well anyway so bracelet making was just my game. The kids were already pros at these types of crafts but were so excited when they had colorful yarn to use!

Troy (in the picture) brought the yarn and some books on bracelets and knot making...the kids LOVED them!

And we learned....who needs scissors when you have a machete lying around!

My bracelet buddy...

DAY 3:

It was Sunday. We went to church in the morning. When we got back we had lunch at the guest house. At this time we were given the option to help lay foundation (aka-stand around) at the school or go on a hike to a waterfall where we could swim and play. You can guess what most of us choose. A few people went to school but most of us were ready for a jungle hike (and oh boy was it ever!)

The scene was beautiful!

And as Naomi is demonstrating...a little dangerous! We crossed this river about 6 times...back and forth to follow the path to the water fall.

Of course we weren't going to let this clean, fresh water go to waste! After playing (like little kids!) in the water fall...it was bath time.

We ended the day relaxing on the rocks and enjoying the company and scenery.

DAY 4:

We were told it was time for us to teach. Naomi and I had prepared a lesson on telling time in English but when we arrived at school....we were not prepared to be the students, not the teachers. After introducing ourselves and talking a little bit about our homes, the students taught us traditional crafts including basket weaving, mat making and they also made fun things for us like arm bands, necklaces and crowns. They decorated our crowns with beautiful flowers (that also smelled great...and covered up the fact that none of us had bathed in a week!)

While introducing ourselves, we realized our group leader, Christian was gone. Later, we were told it was time to greet a special guest down at the river. Much to our surprise, down the river came Christian dressed in chief clothing. He had been made chief for a day. They came in singing and dancing....ready to start the party.

The group on the boat was also carrying the pig we were to eat as part of our singsing. (mind you, in this picture-the pig was alive! Later, Christian actually killed it and helped cut it. We actually divided up the meat...raw, bloody and still warm....between the clans and necessary groups).

After the pig was killed and the meat was given to the appropriate groups. There was a series of dances performed. This was a group of young girls. Everyone laughed at their song and we later learned it mean "little girl, little girl you are too young...you are too young to be getting married" or something along those lines.

We enjoyed the singsing and that night, enjoyed DELICIOUS pork for dinner. It was a sad departing the next day. The school wasn't actually finished (they promised to send a picture) and we never did teach any lessons but the 4 days there were amazing.