Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Less Artsy, more well... you know

More pictures from Oz on demand. Enjoy. Above, is me looking like a hillbillie. Gotta love wifebeaters!

After Sat-chan's friend's party. Hooched and waiting on the bus.


We headed into New South Wales to go to the beach. It was pretty fabulous. Here is Steveo soaking in the sun.

We walked a bit and generally chilled out. I also got to break in my new diving knife, albeit to cut an avocado for lunch.

Couldn't help myself from taking some footprint and shadow shots, sorry.

At sunset, the shore was amazing. Check out the way the light, sand, and water look in the background of this shot. Oh, and of course, the photo is 100% more saucy with the addition of a wombat.

After the long windy road through the mountains, and a closecall with a certain lady in the backseat, we arrived in the middle of the rainforest!

Where there was the waterfall...

And the ridiculously cold rockpool. Notice me, in the background clutching my towel for warmth.

Along the newly named, Steve Irwin Highway, we stopped to check out the Glass House Mountains.

Hell of a view! The Sauce was telling me the legend of the mountains. Thanks to wikipedia for this synopsis:

In the Aboriginal legend the mountains are members of a family with the father being Mount Tibrogargan and the mother Mount Beerwah. All of the other mountains are sons and daughters with the eldest being Mount Coonowrin.

Tibrogargan, the father, observes that the sea is rising and asks that Conowrin the eldest son help their pregnant mother to safety. Terrified, Coonowrin instead flees. Infuriated by his sons cowardice Tibrogargan pursues him and strikes him so hard that he dislocates Coonowrin's neck.

Once the danger passes Coonowrin feels tremendous guilt for his actions and asks his father, brothers and sisters for forgiveness but all wept with shame. This is said to explain the many small streams that flow through the area. Tibrogargan turned his back on Coonowrin and gazes out to sea refusing to look at his son Coonowrin who continues to hang his head in shame and cry.

We drove to the town of 1770 for a camping and diving adventure on the 28th. Here is the sunset we missed the closing of the campsite for. A great mistake on our part! We ended up driving through 18km of bush, past numerous kangaroo and cows, to a hidden awesome campsite, where I proceded to get us stuck in the sand, we made friends with some dirty hippies from Brisbane, and we spent the night in our lowly tent, listening to forest critters. Good times.

We dove off of Lady Musgrave Island, and this is a shot from the boat. The water was gorgeous. And well worth the vomit-frenzied 2 hour plus 3ft chop boat ride out there! There was a point where we were literally surrounded by our fellow passengers spewing up their toenails. The crew was running around laughing and joking about how the guy behind us needed to be sick more to catch up to some other dude. "Oh man, 1 liter?! You will never beat the record with that little!" Nice... Note: Steveo and I were one of the few of the 150 people aboard who DID NOT vom. Go us!

Here is a pic on the S.S. Vom-a-thon. Note the look of abject terror.

Steveo did his first dive ever! Yeah! I had two dives and saw many sea turtles. The variety of coral was staggering as well. I didn't know what to expect from the Great Barrier Reef, but besides a meager 15-20m visibility, they were great dives. Oh, and I found a spoon. Yup. A Great Barrier Reef spoon. I win so hard! There I be on a boat!

And one final shot of us looking so good in our dive gear.

The Return of Toga

A bunch of the Nanto/Tonami region and I, a lone Takaokan rep braved the slopes of Toga Snow Valley last weekend. Here are the resulting images, provided by the kindness of Danielle! Here are the all us ladies working on our hill-free skills. Damn, we make this shit look easy.

After a successful day of bruising our asses, we went to a local restaurant for a great meal. I consumed two bowls of these adorable guys (hotaruika - firefly squid). Last year, I could barely stomach them, but for some reason, these were really good! The owners said that they were fresh caught that morning. Perhaps they are best straight out of the sea. Plus the vegetables they were served with were really complimentary. ? Maybe I have officially been in Japan for too long?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Laura and Saucypants' big adventure

As you know by now, I spent my winter holiday in the southern hemisphere. Much fun was had, chill time was enjoyed, tea was drank, falafel was eaten, and the great mysteries of the universe were researched. Like, does the water go down the drain the opposite way? Can you eat wombat or wallaby? If so, would you?

I was in heaven when I arrived, coming from frigid-ass centralish Japanese winter to summer was truly magnificent. I wandered around the first few days, and got to visit the art museum several times, because they were hosting the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art! Woo! I saw a few pieces that I have seen randomly in New York (like the following Yayoi Kusama piece, and DC, and a ton of new work from new artists *well new to me.

The museum was definitely rivaling my favorite museum of all time, in Munich. The Pinakothek der Moderne. The architecture for both buildings is fantastic, and the space is utilized extremely well. I don't know if the curators are geniuses, the spaces just lend themselves to great display, or a combination of the two. Anyways, see for yourself.

These shots were carvings in school desks setup in a classroom environment, kinda fun interactive, and making an excellent point about people traveling just to get handfed cheap culture on package tours, as opposed to actually learning about the culture in a deeper and more meaningful way. Or at least, that's what I was interpreting.

This one was from a series of works depicting scenes from an ancient (possibly Hindu) script which described punishments for sinners. Reminiscent of Dante's Inferno.

Before having holiday fun with the Cleary family and Crazy Rob's family next door (day long backyard cricket match! Complete with overripened mango traps in the yard.), Stevo and I headed to hippieland. Nimbin, was rated #3 in High Times as a vacation getaway. Ranked just below Amsterdam and Jamaica. It was pretty adorable during the day, mostly laid back, with a few sketchy characters wandering to and fro. But whoa does the sketch come out after dark. We decided to rent a hotel room for the night, and experience all Nimbin had to offer. Bunkbeds! Man I love me some bunkbeds! And the paint job of the hotel was pretty inspired. Please enjoy my photographs. I just kinda ran through the halls with my camera and was in aesthetic happyland.

Can I just say, American opposums got nothing on Australian opposums. This one lived underneath Ben and Satomi's place. It would break into the apt. through the window at night and eat our bread and mangoes. If she didn't eat the mangoes, the wombat did...

We went to a Natural Bridge, and I saw a waterfall that ate its way through a cave ceiling. I also learned that glow-worms are REAL, and not just that toy you hug and it makes you less afraid of the dark.

Then, we headed to a rockpool in the Border Ranges National Park, and I managed to bust my knee, jumping into freezing cold water. Satomi was wise enough not to. So she became the photographer.

I will leave you with this sunset shot. Mmm... seafoam.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Tomorrow, I go boarding in Toga!

In other awesome news... I just purchased my ticket home for March! I am very excited. Already starting my lists of things I need to bring home from Japan, and vice-versa. I have had a major craving for fig newtons lately. Steveo and I bought some in Australia, when we were road-tripping up north. They weren't the same, though.

Mmmmm... so delicious! Great, now I am hungry.

Yesterday was the last class ever with my favorite homeroom 3-6. I almost cried. It was sad. Doubley so, because I was told last week that we had two classes left together. I arranged a kickass, party lesson thingie for next week, and it was all for naught. Instead, we played games and guitar for the whole period. I told them that no one is supposed to learn on the last day of class. They were more than happy to oblige!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Sento Mafia

I joined a sports club across from my apartment this past spring, before I got my tattoo. I have begun showering in a little cubicle, so as not to draw undue attention to my ink. You see, when I signed up, I was asked to fill out paperwork asking if I was in fact a "gangster". Deciding that I was not of the gangster persuasion, I filled in "no".

I have heard horror stories of people being asked to leave their gyms or various sento because their tat was showing and it's against the rules. I have been living in fear, walking around in the nude with my hand covering my hip, in some odd limp-wristed, Napoleonic, Bob Dole kinda way.
Earlier this week, I was going through my usual routine of workout, shower, hand-over-hipbone saunter into the outdoor sento, relax. Sento are usually quiet places. If you are with your friends, you can talk at a reasonable level, or just be silent and melt. As previous posts have mentioned, many women tend to evacuate the sento once a gaijin hops in, for unknown reasons. I was under the impression that no one ever talks to strangers in the sento. I have been going for a year and a half, and have never once been addressed by a stranger, besides the occasional "sumimasen" if you bumped them or needed to walk past. Imagine my surprise when I settle in and am immediately addressed.

"Gakusei?" (are you a student?)
Iie, watashi wa kyoushi desu. (No, I am a teacher)
"Sugoi!" (that's great!)
Arigatou (thanx!)

The conversation continues and she proceeds to ask me why I take a shower instead of sitting at the bucket/sinks and bathing out in the open like everyone else. Meh?? I explain, that I have a TATTOO. She starts laughing and tells me that I am free to wander around in my nakie glory without looking like I have a broken wrist anymore! I have Obaachan clearance.

My what!?

Last night, I saw some of my friends that I haven't seen since I left in December. While we were driving home, I was asked to, "Please, be honest..." Ok? "Have you gained weight?" Ummm... not that I know of, why? "Because your bust looks like it is bigger. Maybe it is because you wear a blue shirt." Ummm...? Granted, this girl is a very close friend, so this conversation is kinda on par.

The strange part was this. Fast forward to the last class I just taught, my san-nensei home economics based class. "Rora-sensei, etooo... bigger... NICE!" I was convinced they meant they liked my shirt, until we clarified moments later. WTF Japan? Leave the ladies be.

Its amazing how every part of your body, from head to foot is up for discussion here. I do understand the cultural homogenity and whatnot, but they KNOW I am not Nihonjin. They know I am kinda weird, so why is it still suprising? When you dye your hair, it's as if you are standing on a soapbox and screaming for attention. Piercings are a great way to freak kids out, and/or have your high school boys think you are a magical badass. Those are rather bold statements in Japan, I know. But, seriously, NOTHING gets past these kids. They notice what socks I wear everyday, if I happen to have put on a bit of eyeliner, or if my sweater is a little baggier than the usual style I wear. Although they don't mention it, I am almost positive that they know when I trim my fingernails.

They even notice things that I haven't noticed myself. I could probably throw away all the mirrors and reflective surfaces in my home, and just walk through the hallway when I arrive to work in the morning! "Rora, you have a blemish." "Rora, your collar is tucked in." "Rora, your underwear is showing..."

Enough of that. In other news: I have been back from Australia for about a week now, and big thanx to Stevo, Satomi, and Ben for helping show me around, put me up, and show me kangaroos. Much love to you all!