Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hi friends! I haven;t posted in a little bit, so I thought I'd give a quick update. The strangest things seem to happen here. Here's the details of our morning. We left Hakone (unfortunately) at 5:30 am to visit the Odawara Fish Market. It was crazy hectic at that hour. After we had breakfast Tory was looking out the window and spotted this really cool "go-cart" in the lot below. We left the fish market and drove down a beautiful street lined with cherry trees almost in full bloom. We pulled over to take some pictures, and 5 minutes later this cool "go-cart" drives down the street and pulls over next to us. The man gets out starts telling us about his car and lets us takes pictures and he even let Fernando and I sit in the car. It wasn't actually a go cart, but a kit car. Sweet! We all thought our Rotary friends knew him - but NO, he just stopped. Talk about Karma. If that wasn't strange enough, a woman comes out of her house and she recognizes who we are - the family is in the Rotary. So she invites us in for green tea and some sweets. She learned we are headed out on the train to Yokosuka so she gives us snacks and then a special gift of a hand carved wooden spoon and hashi (chopstick) rest. It was completely surreal. Amazing people, amazing adventures.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Morning Jogs along the Rivers

In the past few weeks, I have taken to going for a morning jog along the riverside. I have found the rivers to be so very peaceful in the morning. My favorite jogs have been in the last two towns. In Hadano, they had spent a lot of time and effort cleaning and revitalizing the riverfront, and even the river itself! The river had waterfalls made of stone, and even stones places strategically to create beautiful water patterns. On the edge, there were weaving stone paths, flowers and bushes, and most beautiful of all, a line of Cherry trees! The mornings that I ran, they were almost in full bloom! This morning I ran along the Hakone river edge. I ran over a red wooden bridge, past large waterfalls, and on a dirt path lined with flora and a small babbling brook! The Japanese towns really seem to take every opportunity to make the available and public space beautiful.


Today it was snowing!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

MIchelle loves eel

I said " michelle, just pretend its chicken and you've smothered it with sweet baby rays bbq sauce"....she said "actually this stuff is pretty tasty!" Michelle rocks!!

Hokone Heaven

HoKone is like heaven. Mountainous, flowing rivers, blossoms starting to bloom

Friday, March 26, 2010

The foods!

Over the past two weeks, our team has been super daring when it comes to trying the great variety of foods in Japan. Before we left, we had talked about signaling each other if something was particularly interesting, good or bad. It hasn't been as organized as that, not in the least. Our first meal in Japan, there was the "oooh that looks very interesting" eye contact and the "let's see who tries it first" hesitation. Most everything past with flying colors.

Our first Rotary meeting was a little more interesting. Imagine a Bento Box filled with colorful foods, none of which you recognize. What would you do? With five guinea pigs, it gets a bit easier. I will say that we all tried almost everything. Each of us trying a few and subtly sharing results. My own read of the situation is, if they take a second bite, it is sound, if beer is consumed directly after, I should definitely try it, for the experience, if multiple sips are consumed along with a green face, stay away! There was only one item that warranted the warning label, and that was the snail. My hat goes off to Michelle who kept it down and who drank the beer to keep it down and warn us all that a very interesting food was just consumed!

I think that the team, on a whole, has been very impressed with the variety of Japanese food. It is not all sushi, sashimi, hibatchi and miso as we may have thought based on American-Japanese restaurants. We have come to love shabu-shabu (paper think beef cooked in boiling water and dipped in either miso paste or vinegar, and the veggies along with it), udon noodle soup, sukiyaki (great rice noodle soup), the variety of sashimi and vegetable salads.

And of course, the great dinners that we have on the tatami mats with food variety abundant. The Rotarians in this area have taken every care to make us feel at home, and show us the Japanese dinners in full style.

As for the styles of restaruants....that is another post! There is so much variety!


Monday, March 22, 2010

March 23 - Atsugi City
We changed hotels and Rotary Clubs yesterday. This group seems as fun and friendly as the rest. They decided yesterday that our schedule had been so hectic, they would give us the afternoon to ourselves. I think we all really appreciated that. This area is full of shops and lots of entertainment. While Tory and Fernando decided to get some rest, Mike and Gabrielle and I went shopping and sightseeing. Well, shopping really. The styles here are so eclectic. It was a lot of fun exploring With Gabrielle, I'm thrilled we had some time to just hang out and window shop.

Today I will be heading to one of my vocational days. I get to spend the morning at an insurance company. I have already learned quite a bit from the many business owners I have met regarding the National plan as well as the private options. I'm looking forward to the hands on learning today.

And then tonight, we will be going to dinner at one of the Hot Springs and will get our first experience with that. I can't wait wait! Michelle

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gabrielle in a downtown Tokyo Japanese Garden

Tory and Fernando entertain the Rotarians!!

Samukawa Jinjya Shrine

Great Japanese Restaurant

Dinner photo!

Rotary Flag Exchange

Yes, we really are learning things!

Samukawa Shrine

Gabrielle charging the electric car.

Mr. and Mrs. Ito, a host family and member of the Kanagowa Shonan Rotary Club.

We saw a couple different types of flight simulators at Tokai University.

We can only sit in this position for a few minutes....the locals can do this for hours.
Fujisawa South Rotary Club

Gabrielle and Michelle at a Rotary lunch....We ate sitting on the grass carpets.

Michelle cleaning yet another food spill by Fernando!!

Michelle and Gabrielle at the welcome party.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Up bright and early, Michelle, Micheal and I tromped off to the Denny's right around the corner (yes, that would be American Denny's). It was a very interesting experience, the egg sandwich had goobs of ketchup on it! And the sausage was not sausage to my surprise, it was a hot dog! So this is what the Japanese think of the American breakfast... well they are definitely missing out on the delicious sausage and egg and cheese! The kiwi drink was awesome I must say, must take that one home with me!

Later that morning, Mike got some help with his Japanese speech that he was to give at the intercity Rotary Meeting. This language is very difficult!

For the remainder of the morning, we walked through a park with Suzuki-san and Scott-san, and visited a gallery. The gallery had a special exhibit - Japanese wood-cut prints from the 1790s - 1900s. The colors and prints on the kimonos were amazing, the time and effort behind each print was evident.

The intercity Rotary meeting was an experience to Remember. There were about 200 people in the room, all together for the fellowship of man. Micheal gave his speech in great style - people were nodding their heads, understanding the words! Tory and Fernando did a gig on stage, a classic Jimi Hendrix with feet tapping and all. There were Flamenco dancers entertaining while we eat the most delicious meal - so many choices of fish, rice, fruit and sauce!

After the meal our group had our first true Karaoke experience! We sang the night away in a special Karaoke hotel - a black-light room with a TV, seats, table, tambourines, maracas and microphones! The hosts for the evening joined in full swing. For that night, we were all very musically talented!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday March 18

I can't begin to describe the emotion surrounding our day today. We spent this morning at Samukawa Jinjya. It is a Shinto Shrine. We were special guests of the priest. We were taken into a special sitting room where we had tea and cookies and spent some time speaking with him and learning the history of this very special shrine. Then they performed a ceremony for us in the shrine. It was such a moving ceremony it brought tears to my eyes. After this amazing experience they brought to to their gardens to walk around. This area is not open to the public, but we were allowed to go in. It was breathtaking. I used my entire memory card in my camera taking pictures. I wish i had brought the extra one!

After the shrine we toured the US Naval Base at Atsugi, and then to Akimoto Foods. They make pickles. Yup, pickles. It was really fun. Today headed to the Japan Aerospace Agency.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wed, March 17
It's Tory's Birthday today! Hopefully we will get to celebrate with him tonight.

So, we have been extremely busy - which is why there has been no time to make a post./ Spent the day yesterday touring Tokia University's Engineering Department. Incredible! We got to see student working on solar powered cars - their Team won the international competition in Australia! We also got to see a flight simulator that trains pilots.
Today we are heading to the Toto Factory - they make the most amazing toilets I have ever seen - seriously! I will never look at one thew same way again :)

Our first home stays are over and we will be moving on from Kamakara tonite and heading to Chigasaki.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunday, March 14
We have all arrived safely in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The flights were perfect. Gabrielle managed to sleep almost the entire flight! Last night we had an amazing dinner with several wonderful Rotarian's. Our day will start today with a Welcome Party and our first attempt at our speech! We will also meet the incoming Team from D2780 and the District Governor. Let the amazing adventure begin!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Serious pre-departure discussions!!

Packing Party

Gabrielle and Eric (her boyfriend) finish the packing!

Packing Party

Tory and Michelle stuffing more goodies into a suitcase!

Packing party

Fernando and Vivian (Fernando's girlfriend) pack some "goodies" for our Japanese host families.

District Presentation

Alma presenting the team with a "you passed the team presentation" pin.

District Presentation

With the current and next year's District Governers of District 7890

Our "Official" Presentation to the District GSE Committee

We gave our group presentation to the District hierarchy

Northeast Link

Our first "mini" presentation.

Northeast Link

Learning how to be a good GSE team!!

Northeast Link

With the flag of our host country!

Team & District Committee Christmas Party

Party at Michelle's house!

Team Meeting

Each team meeting at a new sushi restaurant!!

Our first team dinner--Osaka's in Northampton

Alma & Herb...our fearless leaders!

They discuss the interview pool....

The interviews!!!

The candidates gather for the pre-interview party.