Thursday, January 22, 2009


Wednesday was our chance to finally see Obama's inauguration speech in full glory (that is, without cryptic Japanese commentary overlay)!  Once again, this took us to another Obama party at Phreds, and once again, we were interviewed for the local paper!  You can see Jacob's and my heads in the middle of the photo and (for all of you fluent in Japanese) enjoy our captivating interviews:

Phred, in his "Beer Connoisseurs for Obama" getup:

Captivated by our wit and charm, the Hokkaido Shinbun Press reporter and photographer can't get enough:

Thanks to Phred, not only did we enjoy some delicious Rogue beers on the house...

...but we also got to partake in "Throw the Shoe at Bush" for charity event!  In Phred's words, "Why should Iraqi journalists get to have all the fun?":

No matter your stance on Bush, Obama, or anyone else, we are just so darn lucky to be from a country where the changing of government power comes not at the end of a gun barrel or through a bloody coup, but with peace, cooperation, and Aretha Franklin!

The time has come where we are truly proud to be Amer-i-cans!

January Smatterings

Coming down from a vacation high and trying to get back in the swing of work, cold, and the occasional winter blues, January has proven to be a bit of a "transition" month for us here in Sapporo, hence the apparent blog-drought!

Fortunately, as my friend Callie and I discovered, we did make it back in time for all of the "Fat Sales":

I'm still working on my Japanese as much as I can, especially with the help (and twice a week lessons) from Eri.  Man, this language is difficult!  I've been studying for five months and still feel the tight grasp of illiteracy and confusion!  日本語は楽しい、でもむずかしです!

My school and the students have been getting back into the swing of things as well as they head into the homestretch of their school year, which ends in mid-March.  We kicked off the semester by hosting the All-Japan Micom Car Rally, in which students from all over the country display the speed and agility of electric cars they built themselves:

Also, we are still trying to earn the claim of "Snow Bunnies" as we hit the slopes again, this time at Teine Ski Resort, which is located in Sapporo's city limits about 25 minutes from our house.  For my second time snowboarding, I see definite improvements, except in the week of pain that follows.  I only hope that I can somehow master the art of getting down the dang mountain while still in a semi-upright position before our all-school ski trip at the beginning of February...yikes!

Finally, in an event that matches no others, Jacob and I are the newest members of...duh, duh, duh...the Chuo Sapporo Municipal Library!  With the cold weather providing many cooped-up moments at home, I've never been happier to have regular access to free entertainment:

January is the mere calm before the storm for us.  February is bringing with it the Snow Festival, LOTS of guests and Couchsurfers from all over the world, my birthday (another yikes!), Valentine's parties at school (special request from home: Valentine's for my students!), and the last FULL month of other words, we just won't have time for any more of these cold winter, January blues! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Great Thailand Escape, Part III

For the last leg of our trip, we decided to venture over to Koh Tao's sister island of Koh Phangan, known still for its backpacker vibe, beautiful beaches, and especially it's infamous Full Moon Parties out on the beach in the village of Mae Haad Rin.

The Full Moon Parties in Haad Rin Beach are legends of cocktails mixed in buckets, glow-in-the-dark body paint, beach raving, and thousands of farang (foreigners). Although New Years was not a full moon, the New Years Eve countdown party is still treated as such and we decided to head down to the spectacle...kind of like one of those gruesome things you don't want to look at, but you just can't help it anyway.

Now, raving on the beach to crap trans-techno while watching glowing bodies dance and throw their trash into the ocean isn't exactly our idea of a good time (we're more of the sitting back in a quiet bar with some local-yokel types!). But the sheer number of people in attendance (an estimated 15,000 plus), the massive fireworks displays, and the novelty of the whole thing drew us in anyway, fully armed with our cameras and wit!

I have to admit, the party was a decently good time since I was there with Jacob, and it also was the BEST people-watching event since the Kansas State Fair! I can only hope and pray, however, that young environmentalists catch on to the amount of crap being swept away into the waters from these parties, and that they desend on Haad Rin Beach as soon as possible! You don't want to think of an island and its ecosystem falling prey merely to a huge-ass monthly party.

The madness on Koh Phangan made me super glad to get back into Bangkok, where the blue skies and non-touristic cheapness made everything more refreshing! We didn't make our way back, however, without constant grazing at some more amazing markets. You can seriously go for days without stepping foot in a restaurant!

With an overnight stop in Taipei, Taiwan, it was back to the cold clutches of Sapporo for us!

This trip was an amazing feast for the senses in everyway! Thailand is a beautiful country with amazing people and so much to offer, so much so that we have a TON more photos, which you can peruse here.'s back to the "real world" and real cold for us!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Great Thailand Escape, Part II

Continuing down the "elephant nose" of Thailand from Petchaburi, we took an early morning ferry out of the fishing port town of Chumphon. Our destination was the Samui island archipelago, on the opposite side of the country from the resort behemoths of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.

In particular, we were seeking Koh Tao (Turtle Island), a somewhat underdeveloped (in comparison), backpackers darling of an island where scuba diving is cheap, the pace is slow, and white beaches melt into waters of all shades of green.

We stayed in a bungalow at the very, very awesome Sunshine Divers, which could possibly be one of the most colorful and laid-back places to chase away winter-blues and other ailments. Plus, if you take a diving course, accommodation is free...highly recommended!

This is what a Thai island looks like before it succumbs to the grips of Marriots, Hiltons, and chains of chain-restaurants. It's hard to know what Koh Tao's fate concerning all of this is, but for now, it's content catering to divers, environmentalists, and those of us with younger budgets.

As a bit of a milestone, Jacob decided to go for his scuba diving certification so that we can go on dives together! And I had a go at underwater photography, an incredibly difficult endeavor, especially when a strong current and the fragility of the corals and other sea-life provide no way to steady yourself in the water. It was point-and-shoot 101 all over again and, because Murphy's Law wouldn't have it any other way, the camera was only with me on the worst of my four dives in terms of fish, stingray, and barracuda sightings! Being a part of that underwater world is just incredible.

Koh Tao is the kind of place you want to share with the world, and at the same time, keep it a protected little secret. On to the last leg of the trip in part three, to be continued...