Thursday, September 13, 2007
I've never been a coffee drinker. I've tried, I love the smell of coffee but have never grown to like the taste. My preferred source of caffeine has always been tea and chocolate.
I have been attempting to give up chocolate for the last 13 days and with only a few minor stumbles, I've done pretty well. I needed some emergency M&Ms when I was stressed the other night. Today, I'm trying the switch from lovely caffeine containing black tea to herbal. I can tell you, my organically grown, fair trade, peppermint tea just isn't cutting it. Don't get me wrong, it tastes great, it's just not giving me the kick I need right now.
My throbbing headache may or may not be because I haven't had my hit but regardless, I gave up chemical substances on the first of September as well, so no painkillers for me. Gone too are peanuts, Diet Coke and marshmallows. It's hopefully all in a good cause though. I'm attempting to stop my future children (no, not pregnant now...) inheriting my pain-in-the-butt food allergies and basically give them a good start in life.
I did have a lovely perk-up today though. I got my student feedback of my teaching back. I did well I'm happy to say. My favourite two comments were;
"Her body is full of kindness" and "Her smile is very good, her English is pretty good." They help take the headache away.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Then today in class, one of my students wrote me a note on her worksheet that she showed to me as I was going around the room checking everyone's progress. It said "Did you get thin?"
I knew I had lost a little weight, but am happy to hear (and see) that it's starting to show. The work at the gym and the cutting out (OK - down) of chocolate is starting to pay off.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Wayne joined my gym the other day. He's wanted to join it for a while, but was "forbidden" to do so because he has a tattoo. It's a rather large tattoo, taking up most of his rather large chest. Tattoos are frowned upon in Japan because of their connection to yakuza. Even though it's quite doubtful that a foreigner would be yakuza, ink-work can still make many Japanese feel uncomfortable. For this reason, Wayne can't enter many of the wonderful Japanese hotsprings.
So for a while now, he's been attending the city gym, but the weights there are very light and he doesn't get the workout that he wants. We went to the gym last weekend to ask for special permission for him to join. I (my Japanese is much better than Wayne's so it is almost always me that asks things in Japanese) asked very nicely that if no-one ever gets to actually see his tattoo, could he join.
They hummed, and hahhed then reiterated that no-one could ever see it, then it would be ok. And I mean ever! We also had to agree that no-one would see it outside of the gym either! They justified that if he was in another public place and his tattoo was visible, another gym member might see it and get scared.
At the gym he can't use the pool or the public bath. He also has to be careful when going to the shower. So in a country where people are quite comfortable with public nudity (in certain sex segregated envirnoments that is), Wayne has to walk to the shower fully covered up with a t-shirt on top. He takes his clean t-shirt to change into in the shower cubicle which he makes more private by hanging his towel over a rail so that nothing can be seen above the door either. I'm sure people are going to start wondering and then talking about why this large, strange foreigner is so shy about his chest. "Hey, maybe he has a third nipple", is my guess to what they might think.
It's a pity in a way, because to be honest, I think it's a chest worth showing off.
Over the last week, I've discovered that there are pros and cons to having my personal trainer husband at the gym with me. The main advantage is that I work harder. The main disadvantage is that I work harder. Boy am I sore today!
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
We had timed our return from the trip to be back in time for a festival in a friend's village. We had missed many of the summer festivals this year, but luckily caught a few at the end.
I wrote about the Obon Festival last year and one of the dances we went to. I really enjoy the atmosphere at the Bon-Odori (Obon Dances), I love the way everyone dances together, often dressed in yukata (summer kimono). It's an unabashed celebration of life and traditional culture, something you rarely see in Australia unless it involves a beer or two.
This summer I also went to the Nagoya Do Matsuri. This is another dance festival, but many teams compete against each other. We went to watch it on the Saturday in Sakae when the teams were dancing their way down the street. The day was stinking hot. I felt terribly sorry for the dancers out in the sun, in hot looking costumes. The energy they exuded however was really impressive.
A quick question, what do you think of the slide show style in the blog?
The trip was amazing! Exhausting at times, but amazing.
We started off in Vietnam and our first impression of the country was the traffic. All bikes and lots of noise. Bikes with three or four people, bikes piled high with all sorts and shapes of things, bikes weaving in and out within inches of crashing into one another, but never doing so, bikes with horns and riders not afraid to use them. The only road rule I could determine after a couple of weeks in Vietnam is that you can drive whichever side of the road you like, through whatever colour light you like, just as long as you use your horn.
After a very hot and humid day in Hanoi, we began the first part of our trip in Sapa, a small region in Vietnam's northern mountains. The cooler air and the awe-inspiring scenery was a welcoming break from the chaos of Hanoi. Sapa is the home to a number of hilltribes and I was particularly interested in the indigo textiles of the Black Hmong people. I've written a bit about them on my Kimono Reincarnate blog.
In Sapa we did a two day trek. In hindsight, we were so glad we did this at the beginning of the trip. I don't think I could have summoned up the energy for it at the end. The trek was my heaven and hell and our guide was my angel. In the dry season, the trek would raise your heartbeat a little. In the wet, which was when we were trekking, the steep slopes became mudslides and every step had to be thought out. By me anyway. The Black Hmong girls how had nominated themselves as our guides happily bounced down the hill like mountain goats, catching any big, inexperienced tourist on their way.
The night in the middle of the trek we did a homestay in a Day (pronounced Zay) village. The family were lovely and we had a lot of fun playing cards with the kids all night. The house was simple, but clean. It had a bare cement floor, the kitchen had a wood fire on that floor, there were a couple of bare electric bulbs in the building and the only water to the house was brought by a piece of hosing that had been inserted into the creek near the house. This creek was the same one that all the toilets of the village emptied into, so I was very glad we were further upstream than many others.
A rooster's crow woke us in the morning while we were comfortable under the rafters encased in mosquito nets. I found the second day of the trek harder than the first. It had rained heavily the night before and the slippery clay had now become a sucking bog. While in the middle of a beautiful bamboo forest, all I could think about was any movie about the Vietnamese War (or American War as it is referred to there). I could feel the heat and humidly, I could hear the insects, I could feel the pain, I could hear the sounds of gunfire. OK, maybe no gunfire. For all its difficulty though, I loved it. Each time we stopped, I was blessed by an amazing scenery. Our guide carved steps into the mountain slopes for me to climb down and was a fountain of interesting knowledge. By the end of the day I was covered in thick mud, exhausted but somehow, spiritually revived.
It's at this point that I remember why I haven't written about the trip until now. I am in great danger of never stopping. I'll try to make it brief from here...
The food in Vietnam was delicious! I lived for days on different spring rolls and over the weeks delighted in the fish, the prawns and the sauted morning glory. Everything was so cheap and the heat meant that beer was a perfect partner with many meals.
The people we travelled with were just as entertaining as the trip itself. We had many Aussies, a couple of Norwegians, a Welsh and an American, to be later joined by a number of Brits. On the first night we met the group, Wayne warned the only other Aussie guy that he had been starved for native speaking males for the past year and a half and he would probably talk his ear off. And that he did over the next few weeks. Sorry John!
We travelled from the north to the south stopping at Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and finally Chau Doc.
The waters of Halong Bay were magical. We stayed on a gorgeous boat and there were just as many staff as there were guests. Swimming in the calm, warm ocean waters, I had a boat row up to me, a convenience store on water if you like, and ask me if I wanted to buy some wine. I laughed and told the woman that as I was in my swimmers, I could honestly say I had no money on me.
In Hue we went on a fabulous motorbike ride through the backstreets and into the country. We lunched (and then napped) at a Buddhist nunnery, I had my fortune told and I was given two flowers by two different men, neither my husband. Our wonderful drivers held our helmets out for us, so that we could step in underneath it while they did up our straps. We felt about 4 years old. It was the most delightful day!
I got a major clothes shopping fix in Hoi An. It is famous for its tailoring and I had so many pieces custom made as well as four pairs of custom made shoes!
Saigon was where I started to get tired. Really tired. Other than visiting the harrowing War Museum, a spot of shopping and a wonderful High Tea at the Rex Hotel, I didn't do too much.
I will be slowly putting more photos up on Flikr, but for the time being, here are a few...
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
A stay in the not-so pleasant Chau Doc was the beginning of a few bad days for me. The morning we left there to cross the border into Cambodia, I came down with a nasty bug. Wayne and I had been sick earlier, though I hadn't been hit too bad at that stage. I did however have some medicine from it which was handy, or so I thought. It wasn't until days later that I realised what was making me throw up was actually the medicine that was stopping, well, things at the other end. The six hour boat ride was my personal hell. I felt so ill, had a fever and just couldn't wait to get to the hotel. Luckily, our hotel room had a wonderful view of the river, so once the fever broke, I was able to enjoy it from the window. There was a "Kiwi Bakery" up the road, so Wayne managed to ply me with a tiny taste of lamingtons and fish and chips. Those few bites were close to all I ate for days.So, I didn't see much in Phnom Penh. I did go for a walk on my own to the Royal Palace, a quite stroll on my own was just what I needed that day. Out the front of the palace I saw three young monks in their draped garments. I asked them if I could take a picture of them. They shyly said yes. Then one of them said to me, in very good English, "Now, I would like a picture with you," to which out of the folds in his saffron robe he pulled out a small, silver digital camera. The moment had me smiling for the rest of the day.
Finally, we made it to Siem Reap. I was still feeling ill and tired, but I wasn't going to let that spoil this part of the trip that I had so looked forward to. With many cans of 7up and the occassional mento, I kept myself sugared up while being unable to stomach much else. Angkor Wat didn't impress me as much as I had expected, but I still enjoyed an afternoon of exploring taking photos. Watching the sun rise behind the temple the next day was a magical moment. We temple tramped for a full day taking in the Bayon, which is famous for carved heads on all for sides of numerous towers and other temples. Our funny little guide with the most wicked laugh I've ever heard, then took us through the jungle. We stumbled across ruins of walls, buddhas and crumbling temples. I felt the way that I had the first time I had seen a documentry on Cambodia when I was a kid. I remembered seeing a piece on the discovery of these very temples in that very jungle. I thought it was so exciting, so exotic. I never imagined that I would be standing on that very soil. Through the insect-ridden jungle we came to Ta Prohm, an amazing ruin with large fig trees overtaking the stone temple, reclaiming its place. It was here that Tomb Raider was filmed. I held my breath, taking in the scene before me. This is what I had come for.
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
The three week trip was way too short to do justice to these two amazing countries. I want much more time to soak it all in, to stay in one place for longer and get to know it better. That will be next time... just have to start saving for that now....