Friday, November 12, 2010

Moving on...

Just in case anyone pops in for a look we've started a new blog for our next trip, check it out and follow us around AFRICA!!!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

A hard days work!

The view of the Kuju mountains as you drive towards them

Two mountains were left on my 'to climb' list as of last weekend. W
ith the rainy season over and the long hot sunny days of summer well in control I took advantage of the 3 day weekend and set off to the Aso-Kuju National park. My goal was to climb 2 mountains; Mimatayama and Taisen, both about 1750m.

The Valley between the two peaks I, green and more green!

The solo self timer summit shot (Yufu dake in the background)

Up and away by 5.30am I was almost the only car on the road. Thick cloud and the dreadful feeling it would end up raining accompanied me for most of the 1 1/2h
r drive inland. Fortunately as I exited the forest onto the Kuju plateau I was greeted by cloudless blue sky and the towering peaks directly ahead! I had bitten off a lot on this trip as most people would take two days to climb both these mountains. Leaving the car at 7am I could tell it was going to be a great day!

View from the summit of Mimatayama looking down over the valley and Taisenyama in the distance

The climb up to Mimatayama was stunning; 360 deg views, low cloud in some of the valleys,no one else around and the steaming vents of an active volcano as a perfect b
ackdrop. The route off was a little more frustrating as I selected a closed and no longer maintained track. The bruises on my bum and scars on my legs show it was not as much fun as I had hoped. After reaching the valley floor the only way to go was back up the other side as I started the climb for the summit of Taisen.

More stunning views....

By now I was feeling a little tired as I'd hardly stopped to rest but with another mountain peak only an hour or so away I knew my reward would be a lengthy break at the top. However as I reached the tops some clouds rolled in and the view was gone! By now I'd finished all my water and thirst was setting in. It was 11.30am and I set a
goal of 1.30pm at the car and home by 3pm.

This didn't leave me anytime to dwell on the task at hand so instead I proceeded to run down the track choosing speed over steady footing. On a number of occasions other Japanese climbers gasped at the young white man who was rocketing passed. After filling up my water bottle in the valley I had yet another climb up and out over a pass before descending back to the car.

The cloud in the distanced is caused by the active volcano on Aso san

Amazingly I made it home bang on 3pm. A great day out climbing two mountains with a total of 1310m ascent!

Half way up Taisen looking back towards Mimatayama (right)

A little caterpillar I found, the longest break I took was photographing him!

Friday, July 16, 2010

You've got mail!

I had a nice surprise in the mail this week when out of the blue I received a letter in the mail from the old vice principal at my school who now teaches elsewhere.

To Mr Nathan

You will be leaving soon.
With the mere thought of it, I feel very sad.
Now I am full of a sad feeling.
I really regret losing you.
Good-bye is a sad thing to say, but I must.
What dreams do you have in your heart now? What hopes do you have?
A life filled with hope is strong.
Never forget hope is the greatest weapon in the world.

Finally I will give you the message below.

Nothing is irredeemable in youth. Rather, the worst mistake you can make when young is to give up and not challenge yourself for fear of failure.

There are only two ways to live. One is to end up defeated after complaining and blaming your surroundings. The other is to open the way by yourself with domitable spirit, no matter what circumstances befall you.

I hope you will contribute to the establishment of a humanistic world as a world citizen capable of shoulderly responsibility for the borderless era of the 21st century.

Good luck, and much happiness!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Swimming in the rain & Samurai sayonara (goodbye)

This is a combination of blogs I wrote a few weeks ago... they are a bit out of date now though but oh well. Meg has been keeping you all well updated on her school life so I figure it's my turn to add something.

Tramping in the rainy season was always going to be a wet experience so in hindsight it may not have been the best decision. With a forecast of.....rain..... the decision was made to go ahead with plans to climb Mt Okue. This mountain was at the top of my to do list as it's remote location and unique limestone features make it stand outa little from the standard volcano style mountains around this area. It felt more like tramping in NZ than Japan as the rain pelted our heads, the rivers were in full flood and theforest was full of the most amazing green colours. I guess the hot humid feeling was still uniquely Japanese!

A scouting mission was established on Saturday to check out the river crossings. If these were impassable then our hopes of climbing Okueyama would be over. After walking for an hour we reached the major river crossing and it was obvious to everyone the torrential rain had made it uncrossable! Another hour back to the cars and we returned like soaked river rats. The only thing to do in this situation was to soak our bodies in an onsen.

So I can't tick the Okueyama box but nevertheless it was an interesting weekend in the hills.

On another note....

No one likes saying goodbye and I think it's sometimes harder when you know you'll never see the person again. Unfortunately we will have a lot of that over the next month or so as we slowly but surely move through the leaving process. Some goo
dbyes will obviously be harder than others; I'm certainly not looking forward to saying goodbye to my students, or to the Tomooka family and my tramping friends.

I've decided to make the process as simple as possible and not leave them all to the last week so on Monday night I ended my career as a samurai and had my final kendo class. Of course it ended up being the best one yet and made me want to go back next week! I was given the honor of fighting all the members and sitting with the sensei (teacher) at the end so I could give a wee speech in terrible Japanese. I won 3 of the fights and scored some points against the really good guys so I was pretty pleased with my effort. I hope they weren't going easy on me!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I'm always really taken aback at how good Japanese kids are at art!

I can remember absolutely hating art class at school because I always felt mine was never as good as the rest but here all the kids just seem to have a natural ability when it comes to drawing or painting!

Here's a selection of paintings I have seen the progress of from start to finish... this is of course the finished product but I could see the potential of how great each one was going to be from the minute they put pencil to paper!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fun times with family

If you thought bowling in New Zealand was cool... you've never been bowling in Japan! I seriously don't know why I was surprised but the shoes came out of a vending machine! I mean how wicked is that! It was double cool becuase we went with my brother Mike and his PARTNER Bec who are visiting as well as Jo, Tom and the kids...

Going bowling was actually the last in a long line of things we did with the 'gang' this weekend... we had a delicious meal out together on Saturday night (thanks Mike and Bec) followed by many a laughs as Nathan attempted to cut his own hair on a chair on the back lawn (thanks Bec for fixing it up) and then topped off with with a delicious birthday cake to celebrate Nathan and Tom's birthday (thanks Jo).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let the goodbyes begin...

With just a little over two weeks to go before we finish up at school I said goodbye to the first of my nine schools today.

With just 13 kids at this school I have had so many more opportunities to interact with this group of kids than I have had at any of my other schools and so saying goodbye was actually pretty hard.

It was mighty strange at the end of each lesson saying "see you" but having to leave off the "next time"... the kids still said it (bless them!)

The final photo with all 13 students at the school

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders clutching the cards I made them

You have no idea how excited I was to finally be able to eat my entire school lunch... the kids at this school think I am the world's fussiest eater because school lunch was always particularly bad on the days I would visit this school!

The two 2nd graders posing for a photo with their prized cucumbers and one tomato that they had grown as part of their science class.

I felt chuffed but really bad when they gave me their cucumbers as a present... they also made me an origami frog!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We're back!

It seems we have completley neglected our blog over the last month and have only managed a couple of entries!! I could blame it on the soccer world cup as that has taken up a lot of my non work time but in all honesty there just hasn't been much to write home about! June is the start of summer and it's already 30degrees everyday and as sticky as a marshmallow! The humidity only just lets up over night but by sun up it's back! Things are about to get much worse too. June is also the rainy season so it rains pretty much everyday, although the last two have been stunning! These things combined with the fact we are in mega save mode has meant no extreme adventures. Time is winding down very fast and we only have 4 weeks of classes left. Then 2 weeks sitting at our desks over summer holidays and then it's all over! A month of traveling after that and then we arrive back in the mighty ChCh on Aug 28th! Wow time flies!

Some of the fields in Yamaga....lots of work!

Jichan driving the planter and bachan in the background on her wee get-a-round scooter

Last weekend was a break from the norm and quite an exciting one at that - rice planting! Slowly but surely ever rice field in Japan will be filling up, most already completed. We went to Jo's and checked out how it's all done.

The machine delicately placing a few roots into the mud - incredible.

Driving off into the sunset

Cos he's a guy

I'd like to say I played a key role in the process but in all honesty I did virtually nothing and was problem more of a pain in bum than anything else! But when there is a photo opportunity I'm not far behind! After flooding the fields for a few weeks (using an amazing system of diverting water from the creeks) the fields are covered in calf deep mud and prime for planting. A fantastic machine with thin metal wheels chugs through the mud and somehow delicately puts a few rice plants in the ground, all in perfect rows at a perfect distance apart! Where the machine can't do humans take over and plug the gaps. Watch out for the snails, frogs and snakes!

Making more of a mess than anything else....this patch won't end up growing....sorry Tomooka family.

Back in the day it used to all be done by hand and apparently the whole community would turn up, plant the field, then move onto the next one, eventually doing everyone's!
It was really cool to see how it works and another example of how hard the farmers here work.

I couldn't wait until lunch

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


School life is super exciting at the moment with my main class, who are easily my favorite group of students and have wonderful English, off to NZ on saturday for a 10 day school trip! Beppu is a sister city with Rotorua and my school is a sister school with Western Heights HS. I've been doing weekly presentations on NZ covering topics like; food, maori culture, sports, school life, Rotorua and Auckland. The students are buzzing with excitment and I can't wait for them to see NZ first hand! I hope they handle the drop in temperature...30deg to snow in a day...hmmmm.

Another thing I do at school is a WORLD ENGLISH BOARD. It's updated every month and features world news, local news, sports news, a country in focus section and a competetion. Each article is bilingual. I don't actually know if anyone ever looks at it but it gives me something to do on quieter days!

With the socccer world cup only days away (oh yea!!!) I've adapted it a little. Now I have a valid excuse to peruse the internet for scores!

Our ESS club has also been busy making roast chicken! The ovens in the cooking room are a real novelty (can you believe I've only used an oven twice in a year!) Man I miss roast chicken!

No school day would be complete without something 'unusual' happening...Japanese culture always has some interesting twist around the corner. Here 3rd grade students present their "marching" to the whole school. A very interesting display in how group culture rules society.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bits and pieces...

Osashi buri! Long time no see!

It's 7.15pm, all the windows and doors are open, we're wearing as little clothing as possible, it's still about 25deg and the great NZ soundtrack is cranking out of our speakers. This all means one thing!.......SUMMER is here! Oh yea! 1st June officially signals the start of summer in Japan and the weather is certainly on cue. Lets hope the rainy season (June) doesn't show up this year??!

Things have been a bit busy lately and time is whizzing by, we only have 6 weeks left of school and only 3 months until we are back in Aotearoa! The to do list is growing everyday but over the last few weeks we have ticked a few of those boxes. Here's a look at them:

Baseball! The only pro team anywhere near us is in Fukuoka so a few weeks back we visited the Yahoo dome to watch the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks play the Saitama Seibu Lions. We lost (badly) but it was heaps of fun! We're still cricket fans though!

Summer time camping. Yes Rob we have used the t
ent! A group of JETS headed into Miyazaki prefecture (area of the foot and mouth outbreak!!) for a weekend of fun in the sun! The water was super warm, the sun didn't stop shinning (megs sunburn to prove it), and many laughs teaching the Americans how to play cricket!

Mukade! These dangerous centipedes have a habit of finding their way into peoples homes during summer....we are no exception! NOT COOL. But easily killed with my trusty bamboo tramping stick hahahahaha.

Fireflies. How the hell they make their bums glow I don't know but man it's cool! Just imagine a lot of little tinkerbells everywhere. This is what a 5min exposure will get you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A (big) Cave

What's a 4 letter word starting with a 'C'?? ...cove....coat.....cups....cats....cone...comb....


Good guess everyone! Clap your big hands.

We went to a cave. It was big. It was dark. It was surprisingly warm. It was raining outside. We couldn't camp so we stayed in a cabin. It was in Yamaguchi prefecture. It is called Akiyoshido. It is the biggest cave in Japan. It was cool.

The end.