Thursday, March 20, 2008

Our first Hokkaido winter... SURVIVED!

The snow has stopped and spring has sprung but I had to get in one more 'how cold IS it?' .....
It's SO cold that the Sea of Okhotsk actually freezes over! On this day the ice came all the way up to the shore without a break as far as you could see. Weeks earlier we were on the same beach without a hint ice in sight.
When the ice retreats for a day or two it leaves what my friend Reiko calls 'ice cubes' on the beach. Off in the distance you can see the white line where it starts up again.

The second annual English Camp was held at the Komu (indoor wooden playground). 3rd, 4th and 5th graders got to spend the night, play English games, and eat American junk food. Shawn referees the English Olympics.Kids have been saving up their Shawn dollars all year for this event.
When it came time to settle in for the night the girls all got out their pocket video games and played quietly. The boy's had a little harder time settling down. Though Shawn got about 15 minutes of sleep he reported it was well worth it. Banana pancakes in the morning were a hit.

In case you haven't noticed, food will be an ongoing theme on this blog. Since I've exhausted my repertoire of recipes for the adult English/cooking class I asked them to teach me to cook Japanese food which turned out to be a lot more fun.
Our first recipe was Nikujaga, 'meat and potatoes'.
So far all the meat we've encountered has been really fatty which to be honest, kind of grosses me out, but we're getting used to it. The potatoes on the other hand....they must mix MSG in the fertilizer or something because they're the best tasting spuds I've ever had.
Mystery solved! Nova and I have been wondering what these gelatinous bags are since we got here. We squish and jiggle them every trip to the store and crack up because Nova calls them 'spit packs'. Though it's doesn't contain Cognac (or spit for that matter) and isn't a potato, the ladies called it 'Cognac potato'. It's really stinky stuff but Reiko was kind enough to show me how to rinse them with warm water so they don't smell so bad.
That's Nova behind me doing her shy routine over lunch. This turned out to be a really good recipe. I'll whip up some Nikujaga for our first Juneau potluck when we get home.
This is Chihiro. She's a regular of the English class and is so patient with my lack of Japanese I could just hug her! By the way, hugging..... kind of a no-no here. I've dared to hug a Japanese person three times since I've been here. It's a little awkward but I'm hoping to start a hugging revolution. Chihiro's baby boy Sora has a natural mohawk to die for. Sora means sky. Luckily the hugging thing doesn't apply to children so I can squeeze away on little Sora here.
My favorite subjects to capture on film and hug, Nova and Shawn.... doing just fine. Nova graduates from Panda to Giraffe group in her school. Shawn is looking forward to his new Gibson F9 mandolin to arrive via Nippon post any day.
More spring photos and stories to come!