You all had better book your flights and make your hotel reservations for Shichinohe town soon! May 5th is creeping up on us, and as I'm sure you're already aware that is the date of Shichinohe's big two-day railbus festival called "I Will Play With a Railbus 2006". I wrote before about my quest to find the old retired Noheji railbus a few times before, and thanks to the help of Avoidinglife.com reader and train-fan KS I may soon get my chance. Unlike 'Operation Bear Watch' which seems to be going nowhere, it appears that 'Operation Railbus Watch' may actually bear some fruit.
From what I can tell, Friday May 5th is for taking pictures of the rail bus while May 6th is for riding. For the price of 300 yen + some kind of membership fee, you can ride the rail bus about 850 metres and get a close up look how the driver shifts gears. Railbus related souvenirs are also for sale at the event. Good stuff!
Okay, I admit it. Maybe "I Will Play With a Railbus 2006" isn't the most exciting thing one can do over the Golden Week holiday, but at least it's something, which is more than nothing, which is what's going on around these parts most of the year.
April means the start of the new school year, and it also means that it's teacher transfer time. I had to deal with the transfer of my wonderful supervisor Mariko in my first year. In year two I lost her replacement Chieko when the school decided to reduce the number of English teachers by one, leaving her with no job. Chieko was replaced by my old friend Kaori who fortunately is continuing on as my supervisor again this year. Sadly though I was forced to deal with another loss in the Noheji High School English department when my collegue and Go coach Kaizuka sensei retired after 37 years on the job.
I can't imagine what it must have felt like for him to leave after working the same job for 37 years. My paltry three years as a JET is already the longest that I've ever stayed in the same job. Unlike many teachers his age, he wasn't the least bit relunctant to speak with the weird foreigner in the office and we got to know one another quite well over the years.
During my first year he would sometimes approach me at 3:45 just as I was about to head home and invite me to sit and chat with him. At first I found these requests a little annoying as I didn't wish to spend any more time at the office than I was required to. We would most often talk about the history of Aomori, the types of fish you can find here, classical guitar, poetry, teaching, major league baseball and lots of school gossip. Since I know very little about any of these subjects, he did most of the talking. Over time however, I came to really enjoy our chats and now that he's gone it makes me sad to think that we won't have any more. Well, we'll have at least one more I guess as he has promised to come to my farewell party in a few months.
For his farewell address to the student body he surprised me when he asked all the students to repeat after him "Be Strong and Straight". I asked him later what that was about and he told me it was a line from the movie 'Shane'. Apparently before the cowboy Shane is forced to leave town at the end of the film, he gives that same advice to a small boy. I thought his choice was spot on, since out of everyone I have met in my life, I think Kaizuka sensei probably would have made the best movie cowboy. He is one of the kindest people I've ever met, and seemed to never have a single bad thing to say about anyone.
Here are some photos from the farewell festivities:
SENDAI -- The prototype of the next-generation bullet train designed to travel at 360 kilometers per hour has been brought to Sendai for trial operations, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) said.
Six "FASTECH 360Z" carriages were transported to Sendai on freighters from train factories in Kobe and other areas. They were transferred to trailers at the Port of Sendai and brought to a bullet train depot in Sendai.
FASTECH 360Z will begin trial operations on the Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines in April.
(Read more here)
How do you like them apples France? While I won't be in Japan long enough to take a ride on one of these bad boys, I will get my chance to ride the real fastest train in the world when I visit Shanghai in a few weeks.
One of Avoidinglife's loyal readers "Jason E" sent me this neat lesson plan he found. It's a lesson about English slang terms, and for some reason stars a Hulk Hogan-like cartoon character. I'd use it on my students, except most of them are still trying to master "This is a pen". Soon the new school year will begin and I'll be handed a new crop of minds to manipulate. Apparently the average score on the entrance exam this year for Noheji High was somewhere in the 20's, with only a couple of students getting over 50%. I better go say my prayers and eat my vitamins.
Just moments ago I snapped these pictures outside my apartment in Noheji. A great fire completely gutted the house of one of my neighbores. I have no idea at this time if anyone was hurt or not, but I'll update this post with more information if I should hear it.
Steph sent me the following:
HONG KONG ? McDonald's Restaurants (Hong Kong) Ltd was found guilty by a Hong Kong court Monday of selling ice cream containing E.coli bacteria 630 times above safety standards, local media TVB reported.
The company was fined HK$4,000 and had to pay an extra HK$430 for laboratory tests. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department inspector took samples of a HK$2 ($0.26) ice cream cone from a McDonald's restaurant in the industrial district Kwun Tong in Kowloon in April last year, TVB News reported
Sure hope the McDonald's restaurants in Shanghai are cleaner than those in Hong Kong, as in one month's time that's where you'll find me!
Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Gaijin for Life Luke Elliot and his lovely wife Yuko, I am now the proud owner of the legendary THUMPER!
Thumper is a 1993 Nissan Primera that any regular reader of Luke's blog will be very familiar with by now. Before the old Thumpster lived in Shimokita he belonged to a long list of Goshogawara JETs, the last being Autumn and Jacob Witt. Poor old Thumpy was about to meet his destiny in one of Aomori's many convenient roadside junkyards when Luke noticed my online cries for vehicular help. There's no sense in me recounting the details of the emotional handing over ceremony as Luke has already done an excellent job of it here.
Luke bids Thumper a tearful adieu.
Anyway, thanks to Luke and I this precious artifact of Aomori JET history has been saved from the gallows for at least another few months. Even though I've only had Thumper a few days now I feel right at home in him since he's actually quite similar to my old car in a lot of ways, except for one important detail: No stickers! Fortunately I made sure to save an important artifact from my old car and gave it a new home on Thumper's dash.
Will my successor want breath new life into Thumper when I leave in August? I sure hope so, because if he or she does it will not only preserve an important part of Aomori JET history, but it will also save me 300 bucks in recycling fees.
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