Quick Note: all the pictures of roads and buildings are actually sights that I see everyday on my bike ride to and from school!!! I am sorry I don`t have time to put them in order, but I thought it would be a really cool idea. I actually rode my bike the whole time that I was taking pictures. あぶない！！だめでしょ！
Today is Wednesday morning, and I have a ton to write about!!! Bear with me as I type all about everything. First, I’ll type about events going on here, and then I’ll try to explain all the pictures. I’ve been really busy the last couple weeks, and sleep is getting more and more precious as the days go by, so today I slept in until 8 am…does that even count? The most recent exciting event was the running race on Sunday!! I video-blogged about this day, so I won’t type too much about it. I ran in it with 3 other friends, and we had a wonderful time. Man, I had forgotten how much I enjoy running in races. There’s so much camaraderie, more of that than competition, and I really like that. People just want to have a good time and do their best. I am happy to report that I set a PR of 47:06. For those of you who don’t know, a PR is a Personal Record for a certain distance. Honestly, I haven’t been that surprised with myself in a really long time. I ended up running the race without my watch because of some contest they were having, so I had no idea how fast I was going throughout the race. I guess my desire to meet my goal of 50 minutes kept me pushing beyond that pace, and thus I ended up at 47 minutes!!! Once I crossed the finish line, I met up with everyone else. Since they ran the 6K, they’d already finished. It was great to see the smiles on their faces, and I am so glad we were able to share this incredible experience together. For everyone but me, it was their first time running in a race. Really, these 3 other people just began running less than 4 months ago, so I am unbelievably proud of them for completing the race. My one friend, Mame, said to me that as she finished, she realized that she wanted to run more! I can’t tell you how happy that made me feel. She’s totally hooked on running, and that’s wonderful!!! Actually, she and I are going to train together for a half-marathon in October. It’s our new goal together, and I couldn’t pick a better person to be training with. Really, even though Mame hasn’t been running that long, she’s a really great runner. She’s incredibly fast, I think. She’s faster than me on most days. Like yesterday, we ran together for an hour, and for most of the time I was ahead, but near the end, she sped up and passed me as we were coming to the last mile or two. I actually think we ran about 7 miles yesterday. Either way, it was her first time running for an hour. I am so impressed with Mame!! She doesn’t replace Josh at all, since the two of us ran a lot at Manchester, but it’s nice to have a friend in Japan who is so enthusiastic about running. We’re going to have a blast training for this half-marathon. Honestly, I think we could do a whole marathon by then, but since this is our first one, it’s important to train at our own pace. The half-marathon is actually in Sapporo, so we won’t have to travel far at all to get to the starting line. And I guess it’s super famous too, because last year there were 10,000 people in the race!!! Wahoo! I love big races. Also on Sunday, we went to the Hokkaido Jingu Festival…it’s basically a big shrine festival here in Sapporo. It was only three days long, so it’s already ended. Anyway, I went with Mame and our other friend, Akiko, on Sunday after the race. The three of us had lunch at the festival, so we got to each festival food! Woo!! We shared this very famous food from Hiroshima, but I never remember the name…sorry. And, as a side note, I’ve started taking pictures of my meals, so I can show you all what I eat, instead of trying to accurately describe it. We didn’t stay at the festival very long because it was raining, but we had a good time. After that, we split up. I wanted to get a ton of subway station stamps, so I went the opposite direction. My goal is to get all the subway stations in Sapporo, and since I had an all-day pass on Sunday, it was free to go to as many as I could get to, so I got about 10 or so stamps. It actually takes a long time on the weekends, because once you get the stamp, you have to wait 5 or so minutes for the next train, and then do it all again. I am not quite halfway done collecting all the subway stamps, but I think I’ll be able to do it before I leave. Yesterday, a small group of us went to this festival again to watch the parade and eat lunch. I primarily wanted to see the parade, so I took my camera and video camera. I got to see some really cool floats, so I was definitely glad that I went. However, since it was rainy, and I had a lot of homework to do, I didn’t stay too long. Friday, we all went to another festival in Sapporo. This one is a lot more famous than the Jingu one…it’s called the Yosakoi Soran Festival, and it’s basically a big dance competition in festival form. There is a main stage in various parks around Sapporo, and there is a different team performing continuously. Actually, teams from all over Japan and neighboring countries come to compete in this festival, so needless to say, it was packed with people. We actually saw MANY foreigners. It was weird, because besides the international students at Hokusei, I hardly ever see foreigners. It was almost like they were stepping on my turf..haha, not that I am getting defensive or anything. A big group of us went on Friday, and we were actually lucky enough to get in the front row of the standing area, so I was able to get some great shots on my video camera. I am VERY excited to be able to re-watch the dances. They were unlike any dance I’ve ever seen before, and because I am not at all familiar with dance terms, I won’t even begin to describe it. Just know that it’s very intense, and it’s almost like a warrior style dance. They dance to really upbeat music, and some times, they shout along with the music, so it’s very entertaining to watch!! This was probably my favorite festival up to this point. I am very glad that I went!!! After we left this festival on Friday, the whole group went out to the bar…Initially, I wasn’t going to go, because I don’t drink enough booze to benefit from all-you-can-drink. However, I wanted to hang out with the rest of the group, so I decided to bit the bullet and go. I ended up trying a lot of different variations of flavored milk, my favorite of which was green tea and milk. Don’t judge it until you try it!! Side note: I still haven’t had chocolate milk since being here…anyway, we got done at the bar at like 11:30, and since I biked to Odori, about 1 hr. away, I had to bike home that night. It wasn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it was free and I made it home in an hour or so. Since Sunday was race day and Friday was so exhausting, Saturday was definitely rest day! I spent most of my time at the house here, and for a little while, I visited with my host parents’ son’s family. It’s weird, because there isn’t a term for our relationship. Host brother, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, he is married and has two sons, both of which are huge fans of the Sapporo baseball team, like me!! We actually played some in the house on Saturday, and they were just amazed that I knew how to play, and even more so that I had a mit here! Hahahaa. They are 5 and 8 years old, so they definitely know the rules and everything. It was really nice to spend time with them, and I wish I saw them more often. They actually take piano lessons here every Saturday, so they are around a lot, but I am not always here. Let’s see…that night, they came back here for dinner, which surprised me. I was definitely happy they came back! We had a huge dinner, and this was the night that I learned about the half-marathon and so many other things. Actually from my host family, I learn so much about Japan and current events. Since I don’t know enough Kanji to read the paper, I don’t really know what’s going on at all in Japan, or the world for that matter, so it’s great to be learning all these things from my host family. Another cool thing about Saturday night was the fun math puzzle that Yuko, my host parents’ daughter-in-law, told me. It’s only a 6th grade level problem, so it didn’t take long at all to figure out, but since I miss doing math, it was great to realize that I still can do it! Hahaha. Her son, Sora, is also very good and interested in math, so he liked it too. When I go back to the States, I want to look through my old books and papers and stuff, so I can find some new challenging problems for him. J My host parents were out a lot on Saturday afternoon, celebrating their other grandson’s, Haruto’s, 3rd birthday. Before they left, I told my okaasan that I wanted to give Haruto one of the postcards that I bought in Indiana. Since he loves cars, I gave him the Indianapolis 500 postcard. I wrote “Happy Birthday” in English and Japanese, and then I explained a little bit about the race. He’s only 3 now, so I am sure he doesn’t understand much, but he’ll have it for the rest of his life, so hopefully some day he’ll be able to understand it all. I felt really happy to be able to give him something so special; I just wish I could have been there to see his face once he saw it. :D From what I heard, he really liked it. Also, since otousan, my host dad, and Haruto’s dad, Tsuneo, really like cars too, they were really excited to be reading about it. Now that I know that the two of them really like cars, that gives me a couple ideas about what to bring back for them!! Last weekend was just perfect, really. Let’s see…what else. Jason, the director here, was gone for about 2 weeks and just got back Monday, so I was insanely happy to be able to talk to him again. But while he was gone, we had a lot of extra free time on Thursdays and Fridays, because we didn’t have his classes. However, since we couldn’t go to his office whenever we felt like it, the last couple weeks were spent kind of guessing where everyone was. We’ve actually started watching movies in the library, which is nice. I’ve watched Friends twice already!! Woo! I think about 2 weeks ago, we went to the zoo here in Sapporo. It’s a pretty good-size zoo, with a lot of different animals. We went a little late in the day, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time. But, since it is free to international students, we can go back some other time and enjoy it again!! Actually, this weekend, Kate, Elias, Kevin, and I are taking a day trip to the most famous zoo in Japan, the Asahikawa doubustuen. It’s about 2 hours away by bus, but we’ll have the whole day to enjoy the many animals. (I am totally getting a stamp, too. HAHA!) I am really excited about it! Kate and I climbed a mountain here in Sapporo about a week and a half ago, and it was an incredible time. I’ve never climbed a mountain before, not like this anyway, so it was very exciting. The path was actually really steep, I though. However, the mountain wasn’t too tall, so it only took 35 minutes for us to hike to the top. The view has the potential to be great, but again, since it was raining, we couldn’t see much, because of all the clouds. We actually met a really kind man at the top, who could speak English very well. He told us all about the moutain’s history-it was Mount Maruyama-and he played an okarina(?) Maybe that’s what it’s called. I don’t know. I blogged in a video about it, so hopefully I’ll be able to upload all these videos and feel caught up on my blog!!! We’ve only got about 3 weeks of school left before summer vacation. It’s insane how fast the time has flown by. A lot of the people who are staying for a semester actually leave in less than 4 weeks. Ah! That’s crazy. It will definitely be weird here without them…Kate and I just bought our plane ticket for Tokyo, but we don’t leave until the 30th of July for Hawaii, so we’ll have a lot of free time to spend in Sapporo. I am actually planning to study a lot, so I can hopefully get into a higher level of Japanese class next semester. I am only in the first level right now, and while it is challenging at some times, at others I don’t feel like I am in a classroom. So, because I want to prevent that next semester, I would like to get enough ahead to test into level 3 or 4. Whether I will be able to do, who knows, but it’s a goal! Haha. Lately, I’ve been getting a LOT of packages!! I think I’ve gotten 3 in one week, how awesome is that?? I got one from Jason Elliot and Brit, one from Granny, and one on Monday from my mom! Yaya!! All of them had American food in them, so I am rejoicing the tastes of familiar foods from home. And Granny, if you’re reading this, my host parents absolutely LOVED your cookies!! I’ll write more about it in a letter, but if you read this before you get that letter, just know that your cookies are loved all around the world. :D What else?? So much has happened, but it’s hard to remember it all on the spot. Oh yea, about 2 weeks ago, I went with okaasan to the post office to mail a letter, and the woman who helped me buy a stamp actually gave me her daughter’s phone number and address. Lol. I guess the woman realized that the two of us both go to Hokusei, and since we live close together, she thought that it would be beneficial for us to meet. On paper, this situation looks sketchy, but after a week, I gave her daughter, Marina, a call, and we met the next day. She’s a really nice girl, and I enjoyed talking to her. But, I am just so busy that I don’t know how easily we’ll be able to have a friendship. She does, however, have a Costco card…so I would like to go there with her some time. The way I said that totally makes it seem like I am using her for that, but I don’t think I am. The circumstances on which we met were really weird, so feel free to laugh, but it all turned out okay. That’s enough for now, and I’ll try to explain the pictures!!!