Friday, September 14, 2007

and just so you know

I, Jonathan have posted these blogs for you all, not Ashley. Ashley doesn't like to blog, I try to get her to but she never does ... you all need to ride her hard.

This one's for you ...


So Ashley doesn't want to have a picture of her belly on the web page so I will e-mail you one. Stacy, I enjoy your blog as well. I have read all of your entries but haven't responded because well, Ashley responds to everyone twice so why need me! Later gir-friends!

This one's for you ...

This post is for you! We are going to Osaka and Wakayama and Shirahama this weekend. We will have lots of picture when we return. Did you see the new pictures I put on today? Kelly, is there anything else I can do to make your Gageland experience more pleasing?!?!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Earthquake #4...

We just wanted to let everyone know that we are fine. We felt the earthquake but it wasn't bad at all down here. It made the house move and everything in the house rocked a bit but we're fine.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tanabata Party

On July 7th, we participated in a Tanabata festival party at Noriko and Daiichio's house. This was the main reason we left on Thursday from Kentucky to be home on Saturday the 7th. This was also one of the main reason that Ashley was making my yukata. Here is the fruits of her labor! It turned out really good and I was very proud to wear it.

So what is Tanabata? Tanabata (七夕 tanabata), meaning "Seven Evenings" is a Japanese star festival, derived from Obon traditions and the Chinese star festival, Qi Xi. The festival is usually held on July 7, and celebrates the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). The Milky Way, a river made from stars that crosses the sky, separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year.

Story Behind Tanabata
Orihime (織姫 Weaving Princess) the daughter of the Tenkou (天工 Sky King, or the universe itself) wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the River of Heaven (天の川 Amanogawa). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, she was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tenkou arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星 Cow Herder Star) sometimes called Kengyuu (牽牛 Chinese name of Hikoboshi) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and were shortly married. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tenkou and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tenkou separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa River and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tenkou was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies (鵲, カササギ Kasasagi) came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. If it rains, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait till next year.

In present-day Japan, people generally celebrate this day by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku (短冊 tanzaku), small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bamboo, sometimes with other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day. Well, we didn't set our bamboo on fire or put it on a river, but we did all write wishes on tanzaku and tied it to the bamboo.

There is also a traditional Tanabata song that we sang at the beginning of the night to get the festivities started:

   Sasa no ha sara-sara     (笹の葉 さらさら)
Nokiba ni yureru (軒端にゆれる  )
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira (お星様 キラキラ)
Kin Gin sunago (金銀砂ご    )

Finally, since one of the traditions for the Tanabata festival as well as all of the summer festival is where a yukata, here is a picture of everyone at the Tanabata party wearing a yukata. Several of them were hand made in yukata class by the ladies with Noriko. The yukatas that the guys are wearing in the back row were all made by their our wives!

4-wheelers in Japan

Well, we told several of you about the new trend of 4-wheeler "gangs" that we have been seeing in Nagoya. First you have to understand that Japanese people ride lots of bikes, motorcycles (from Harleys to sport bikes to dirt bikes), and scooters on the road. Well, bikes on the sidewalk and small roads, motorcycles as normal, scooters ... anywhere, and dirt bikes on the road like a motorcycle. They ride them everywhere and think they own the road as well, you really have to be careful because they weave in and out of traffic very much UNLIKE the States. I think it is probably because people in the States would open their doors or try and hit them ... well the other thing is there really isn't road rage in Japan. I find this kind of interesting seeing as how every foreigner I have talked to thinks Japanese are not good drivers. Now I have ridden with several Japanese friends who are good drivers, it just seems like everyone else around you are bad drivers. It is definitely defensive driving ALL the time. Sure there are bad drivers in the States, but it is really different in Japan.

OK, back to the subject. So there are groups of young Japanese guys that ride around late at night in their biker "gangs" that consist of a couple scooters and usually a full size "loud" motorcycle. They don't cause any problems, just noise pollution.

Well, Ashley and I have started seeing people driving 4-wheelers around Nagoya. Now any vehicle that is on the road has to have a license (yep, even the dirt bikes have them) and you have to have a license to drive it (well, your supposed to). So it isn't like some redneck Japanese guy from the country side is riding around on his 4-wheeler, these are licensed 4-wheelers people are using for transportation. I thought I had seen a lot in Kentucky! One day when we were in downtown Nagoya, a group of six 4-wheelers just road through the streets just cruising and following traffic. Unfortunately we didn't get a picture of them, but we did get a picture of this solo driver on a fairly large road!

Notice his head, yep, no helmet ... now that's smart!

Our Home Trip

Ashley and I were able to go home for our home trip in June and July. Ashley went back on June 9th and I followed on June 22nd. We returned together on July 5.

Ashley got to spend a lot of time with her family before I came and then we got to spend time with our friends and my family. We really enjoyed our time back home in the States. We also enjoyed eating American food ... well if you call Mexican American! We had some steaks, BBQ, tacos, and fresh vegetables! It was wonderful.

One of the things we did with my parents was go to Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, Kentucky. We didn't have time to take the scenic train ride this time, but we were able to go through the museum which showed a little bit of the history of the the railroad in Kentucky. We also toured the Model Train Center where there were several model train tracks set up. Dad and his dad had lots of model trains (and dad still has them) so he really enjoyed seeing them set up. One day he will get some of them setup again at their house.

The next day we went to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum with Mom & Dad. It was their first time, but Ashley and I have been before. We got tickets from our friend Matt who I went to school with. Before the regular factory tour we got a private tour with Matt of their mini bat line and operation. Last year, he basically brought all the mini bat production down from New York and now the Louisville Slugger Factory in Louisville can boast that ALL wooden Louisville Slugger bats are made in Louisville ONLY. After the tour, we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory and met David and Amy for dinner. I hadn't been there since college, I think ... either way I couldn't really remember the last time.

After dinner we went to a Louisville Bats game with Mom, Dad, David and Amy. We went to a Bats game the 1st week with Kendall ... an afternoon game at noon and it was smokin' hot! We (all the Gagel's) went to a night game and had seats in the 3rd base side upper deck. It was in the shade and the view was great. Tuesday nights is some baseball bingo promotion night and we enjoyed playing that during the game although we didn't win anything!

The Bats however did win 1-0 with a 1-run HR in the bottom of the 8th! It was a really good game!

Everyone was asking us if the last 5 months are going to be really hard as we anticipate coming home again. I can say that after 1 week I don't think it is going to be too bad. We have several festivals lined up that we plan on going to on the weekends, a 5-day trip to Hokkaido and we still have some other site seeing to do in Japan. We are gonna take these last 5 months and make the most out of them!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ashley is heading to...KY!!!

After 10 long yet short months I am finally visiting home! :) This morning Jonathan took me to the airport. I have decided that I wasn't made to travel alone I pack too much stuff! Usually Jonathan helps carry stuff and handles the paperwork...basically all the non-fun stuff and I just follow. This morning after much tripping and stumbling, and pushing and pulling of suitcases I made it to the Northwest check-in counter. After I handed the lady my passport, printout, and magic Gold Elite Card I asked if there was any possibility of an upgrade. After much typing and consulting I was handed my new upgraded tickets. :) I was very excited! Jonathan hopes to be so lucky in 2 weeks when he leaves. After checking in we headed upstairs to get brunch (by then it was 11:00) and a latte at Starbucks. I had a pretty uneventful flight. I couldn't sleep much so I may crash early today, but oh well I'm just excited to be home again and able to read everything and understand everything said to me. I decided to post a blog since I have ~4 1/2 hour layover here in Detroit. Originally it was ~5 hours but we took off a bit late so I didn't get all the way through customs and everything and up to the lounge until ~1:30. So, in just 4 hours or so I will be in the Louisville airport and hopefully being greeting by my anxious family. :) It's so nice to be home...almost!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cultural Wooden Acrobats

Thursday morning we went to the zoo first thing in the morning. Even at 8:00 a.m. it was crowded. We saw the pandas, only one was moving around, but he was moving around a lot so it was neat to see (our tour guide had been there 5 times or so and never seen the pandas move). Next we walked to the Aquarium in the back of the zoo and went to it. It was also unbelievavly crowded at the beginning part, but thinned out later in the aquarium. The displays were actually very good and they had lots of good saltwater displays (which is all I really care about). After that we went back into the zoo to see the big cats and we got to see a Leapord, Black Panther, and White Tigers moving around! It was very cool, over all a very good zoo experience.

Next we went to China Minority Cultural Exhibition (or something). Anyway it was a park that displayed all 56 minority groups in China with small scale landscape and housing replicas. We had cold noodle for lunch which is a Korean dish. It was nice and each area had actual Chinese minorities representing their ethnicity. Next we went to the China Red Sandalwood Museum. There were 4 floors of intricately carved wood stuff, i.e. furniture, chairs, beds, closets, desks, temple replicas, etc. It was very interesting and incredible craftsmanship.

We were scheduled to see the acrobats show at 5:15 p.m. but on the way to the Sandalwood Museum we went to get the tickets and our tockets were sold even though we had reservations. Fortunately there was a late show at 8:50 p.m. so we got tickets to that show and since it was only 4:00 p.m. when we finished the Sandalwood Museum we now had about 5 hours. We went to a Tea House and had a Chinese Tea Ceremony (much less formal than the Japanese style), we went to Hard Rock Cafe (with a suprisingly limited variety of items), and then to Annie's to eat (a real Italian restaurant). After dinner we went went to a Starbucks went back to the Silk Market and then to a department store to just see what it was like (very similar to Western department stores).

Finally, we went to the acrobat theater and waited outside for around 15 minutes for the previous show to end. The show was outstanding, amazing, and unbelievable. Ashley taped nearly the entire show so hopefully some of you all will get so see it some day. The show finished around 10:00 and we got back to the hotel around 10:40 p.m. and we called it a night.

Today we only have a couple of places to go so it may be a short day and that would be OK because our feet are tired!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Hello friend you want to buy scarf? Real Silk!"

First thing this morning we went to the Marco Polo Bridge about 30 minutes away. We had the same driver from Monday so that was nice. The bridge was nice/neat but the river that it was built over is dried up so that was a bit strange. It has 400ish Lion statues lining the bridge each with a different facial expression which was neat. Then we walked down the street to the Japan/China war museum. There was no English at all so Lanny our tour guide had to do a lot of explaining for us.

After the museum we drove for about 30 minutes to the Beijing Botanical Gardens. It was really nice but REALLY crowded. There were a lot of tulips in bloom and ones that maybe a week or so ago were in bloom. THe garden was pretty big but we didn't go through the whole thing because it was so hot. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant on the way to the next place. It was a country restaurant, all the things they had were locally grown and raised. The food was really good but there was WAY too much of it! The servings were huge which we didn't know when we were ordering. We had enough food for about 10 people and there were only 4 of us!

We drove about an hour to the Silver Pagoda Forest next. This was neat. The drive up was through rural China and in the mountains. The view the whole drive up and then up there was beautiful. The air was nice and fresh and it was just nice to get out of the hubbub of the city for a while. There were 5 big pagodas that supposedly were built over the 'pearl' from the remains of high ranking Buddhist Monks. Supposedly high ranking monks once they have served for so long and reach a certain level when they die and are cremated there is a pearl like thing left bhing from their body (not a pearl but looks like one) and they built the pagodas over that...weird.

Now comes the interesting part...the silk market. It is a huge building with 5 floors of stuff. Booth after booth of silk scarves, kimonos, dress shirts, pants, anything. THey yell at you and grab you and try to get you to buy their stuff. At first they just made me mad and I would just keep walking past everything hoping that someone would leave me alone so that I could look at stuff, but NO! SO finally I stopped and once you stop they aren't as obnoxious but they don't like when you walk away and they will grab you and follow you to the next row saying "ok, ok 100!" or whatever price you said. It is sheer madness! Jonathan really got the hang of haggling and we got several good deals; 35 RMB down to 15 RMB, 180 RMB down to 55 RMB, 70 RMB down to 50 RMB, etc. We made several people mad in the process too. Once I got over them attacking me and ready to walk away at any moment it was fun!

After our crazy adventure at the market we got a taxi back to the hotel and ate upstairs in the lounge again and are about to head up to the room to relax and call it a night.

...until tomorrow :)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rickshaws and Gongfu

Today we walked and walked and walked. We started in the morning walking to Tianaman Square. I must correct myself from yesterday, today is Labor Day in China and there were tons of people out by 8:00 a.m. this morning. We went to Tianaman Square and walked around it and took pictures and then walked under the street to the Imperial Palace and Forbidden City. We walked through all of that, although many of the halls were closed for renovation (there is lots of stuff being renovated for the Olypmics), and there were so many people that we didn't go inside to see any galleries or exhibits. It was very nice and since they had finished renovations of parts of the palace and grounds already then the fresh paint and bright colors looked really nice.

After The Forbidden City we we took a taxi to the Drum Tower (built in the 1400's) and met up with another tour gruide for that area. We saw the drum performance in the tower (the steps going up were incredibly steep) and enjoyed the veiw of the city very much. After that we caught a rickshaw and went through Hutong streets and ate lunch at a Chinese family's house. The food and hospitality was amazing and we had TONS of food. That was the neatest thing we did today and will be a memory of a life time. After finishing lunch we caught our rickshaw and had a 1 hour tour through the Hutong streets of Beijing. We ended up at a porcelan museum and toured it.

We caught a taxi and went to the Temple of Heaven and toured it. The bright colors and the architecture and hugeness of all of these places are amazing compared to places in Japan and even in the United States. We finished there and walked to the Silk Factory nearby and watched how Chinese silk is produced, it was very interesting and amazing. We were offered the silkworm larve from inside the silk cacoon because this is a Chinese snack, but not feeling so adventerous we turned it down! There were many pretty silk things for sale so I needed to get Ashley out of there quickly!

Finally, we took a taxi to the gonfu (Chinese kungfu) show. It was really amazing and very interesting. Our tour guide told us that most people do not go to the gongfu show because they only have a short time to visit and choose to see the acrobat as their first priority (we are seeing that on Thursday). After the show we made it back the hotel and still being full from lunch we got some snacks in the lounge at the hotel and are calling it a night ... it's only 8:30!

Until tomorrow ... :)