August 20, 2010

Hitchhiking to Tokyo and Back

Bruce, Andrew and Erica

I had a week-long summer holiday this month, so I took Andrew out of his school for a week-- he'd already had a week off, all they get at his intensive Japanese learning program-- and we headed for Tokyo to visit Andrew's mom and sisters. We took our preferred method, hitchhiking, to not only save a bit on transportation,  but so we meet people and talk. On trains and buses, people are usually very polite-- meaning silent, but our hitchhiking hosts always want to talk. We posted earlier (here) how it works.

Both directions, we weren't disappointed. We got one ride straight to Tokyo from a kind couple that we met at a highway rest area near our home. They live in Tokyo, but he's from Hokkaido and she's from Hong Kong.

We had a lively conversation about Hong Kong-- I lived near there and visited Hong Kong often-- and about the cultural differences between China and Japan, mixed marriages in Japan, and more.

On the way back, an engineer picked us up who's traveled extensively worldwide as part of his work manufacturing solar panels.

Our arrival in Tokyo was in an area we'd never been to before, and at a sight we'd never seen-- the now 400 meters high Tokyo 'Sky Tree'

It will be 634 meters when completed by the end of this year-- nearly twice as tall as the present Tokyo Tower at 333 meters. Like the The CN Tower in Toronto (553 m.), the main purpose is for TV broadcasts-- but it sure makes an impressive landmark.

Sōka, Saitama

This month as been exceptionally hot and humid, but we got some relief for most of our week in Tokyo due to a typhoon passing west and north of us-- making for some beautiful skies.

However, the highlight of our trip was visiting family, of course.

Andrew shopping with his mom and Naomi, his sister

August 02, 2010

Back to Street Performing-- That is, Festival Performing: Shimizu Harbor Festival

Shimizu is one of the three wards of the city of Shizuoka. It has a large port, including a terminal for ferries going to the Izu Peninsula.  Next to the terminal is a yacht harbor and a shopping, restaurant and theater center-- which, on August first, hosted the Shimizu Harbor Festival.

There were performances all day, special events, acts, lots of food stalls and evening fireworks. I was invited to bring my wandering mime and balloon art act for the middle of the day-- for about four hours.

July 30, 2010

I'm back! --Well, most of me.

I survived, hat didn't
A month ago today I was a battered, bumped, bruised, bewildered mess with no idea what had happened when I crashed my bike on my way home the previous evening.

Today still have a funny bump on my separated shoulder (which I'm told will not disappear), and a body still not 100%-- as in range of motion and energy-- but most of the pain and bruises, and all of the bandages and slings, are gone. I'm told that it'll be eight or ten more weeks for the shoulder to heal, but for the past week I've at least been free from the pain and headaches and in the last few days returned to my normal schedule-- thank God.

I'm extremely thankful for my kind friends-- from those who picked me up from the hospital-- and patiently explained to me why I was there, as I had no idea-- and, of course, to those who cared for me here and prayed for me everywhere. Thank you!

More things to be thankful for:

That the last student on my first of day teaching was a physiotherapist specializing in broken bones who took me straight to his clinic afterwards.

For the chiropractor who spent hours convincing my body to behave, ending each session with prayer-- including a thankful one, with which I heartily agreed...

That I was spared from anything more serious-- and I'm alive!

Time becomes infinitely more important and valuable when there suddenly becomes dramatically less of it available, so I'm also thankful for this extremely effective opportunity to reevaluate my priorities and to closely examine how I spend my time.

Most of us arrive at times like these, when we feel the need to reevaluate our life's purpose, direction and effectiveness. My personal 'prompts' have often just seemed so extreme. Probably the downside of the same thing that probably prevented more serious damage in my crash-- considering how hard and the way I landed-- I'm just so thick-headed!

Over the coming weeks, I'll try not to bother you any more with medical details-- unless I need more prayer, can't do without that!

Again, thank you dear friends!

"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present." --Kung Fu Panda! --Ha!

April 28, 2010

Peruse Bruce's News and Views and Upgraded-- Plus New: Whispers and Wonders

This is my first update in several weeks. Sorry-- I've been busy completely overhauling both of my sites with more to come.
James (of spent an entire day helping me-- mostly answering about an hundred questions that I had stored up, enabling me to make some real progress. The biggest job was FINALLY getting upgraded after a three year delay.

Intensive Japanese Program for Andrew

Andrew started a special intensive Japanese language program meant to bring his Japanese to the standard for his age in just six months, by October. He's picked up by a van at 8am and dropped off at 5pm-- quite a long day. The school is very small, an NGO-run, government-sponsored effort to help the children of foreign workers-- mostly children of overseas descendants of Japanese here as part of a special work-visa program, from Brazil, Columbia, Peru and The Philippines.

For Andrew to get up to speed in speaking Japanese seems quite possible, he has already become quite conversant over just the past year, even before he started the school It is the reading and writing that will be a challenge. He'll need to know about a thousand kanji and kana- Chinese based characters and the two Japanese phonetic alphabets.

March 31, 2010

Jaime Escalante and 'The Other Johnny'

I read today that the math teacher, Jaime Escalante, died at 79. He became famous when a 1988 movie, Stand and Deliver, depicted the teacher, a Bolivian immigrant, as he transformed students in an inner-city Los Angeles high school into math aces. At one point, the school had more students studying advanced calculus than all but three other state schools in the US.

Amazingly, this week I'd shared with my students this story told by Zig Ziglar.

March 28, 2010

Hanami- Cherry Blossom Viewing Begins This Week.

This is the first weekend of my favorite season in Japan-- the blooming of the cherry trees. Although 'hanami' originally meant simply 'flower viewing', it now means, 'cherry blossom viewing'.

Plum trees began blooming weeks ago, but for me this was just a promise of spring. When the cherry trees bloom, spring is really here.

I hope that the photos I've taken over six past seasons are varied enough to portray a portion of hanami's meaning and beauty.

March 01, 2010

Tiny Tsunami! Did You Say Salami? Andrew Said, 'Baloney'!

   Yesterday there was a tsunami warning. We were asked to evacuate our seaside home as a precaution.

February 27, 2010

Media Madness-- Our Choice

It's the menace that everyone loves to hate but can't seem to live without. -Paddy Chayevsky
 Kyle Cunningham wrote:
"I was just thinking. Do you plan to do a post on OUR part in this?-- That they show us what we want."
Hmm... Do you think I can be THAT truthful?...

February 23, 2010

Surfing More Media Madness

  Post Five on Media Madness

I know it sounded in my last posts that I'm a bit of a Luddite, but I'm not. I know that television has some beauty and good, but... well I've said enough about TV. I promised that I would talk about the new strangers, the ones who make the old family friend, TV, seem somewhat stodgy and straight-laced in comparison.