Monday, March 14, 2011

Cute letter

I received this cute letter from two of the graduating boys from my junior high.
If you can't read it, it says:
Dear Ms Audrey,
Thank you very much for teaching us English!!
We enjoyed your English class!!
Audrey, you're very kind and cute lady.
We love you very much! We are happy!!
Do you know the Japanese word "uha uha"?
Please ask N or F.
Our hearts always were broken in English class without Audrey-Sensei.
Never forget N and F.

(apparently "uha uha" is equivalent to "yay!")

New articles

I have an article about weddings and marriage in the Japan and a review of a cafe in the most recent issue of the Nagazasshi:

Earthquake/ Tsunami

Thanks everyone for the concern about Japan. Thankfully I am safe down here in Nagasaki and everyone I know in the Kanto region is also safe.

I want to donate blood, but unfortunately my trip to Malaysia may prevent me from being able to, due to concern of Malaria. We'll see, I haven't found out for sure yet.

I had a trip to Tokyo planned for the end of the month, but will probably postpone it until the summer now.

Let's continue to hope for the best for everyone up north!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wood Working

A few weeks ago my friend mentioned how he was going to go wood-working and invited me along. I really had no idea what to expect but was very pleasantly surprised before even arriving. To get to the shop you have to drive on tiny roads, navigate past several forks in the road in the middle of a forest. I had started to get worried, but low and behold, a clearing emerged. Nestled in a small gorge was a large pond and a monstrous shack. We were greeted by two barking dogs, one of which had multiple plant-forms dragging from her butt-fur. The scenery was beautiful.

The owner of this place is a man named Onizuka, who is apparently pretty well-known throughout the greater Nagasaki area. In short, he's awesome. He looks a little crazy with his curly, unkempt, wood-chip filled mass of hair, with a pencil behind one year and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. However, he's very friendly and knows his wood. Near the end of the day, he usually breaks out his guitar and starts wailing out some Gipsy Kings, in Spanish (well, it's supposed to be Spanish). He also played some American songs for us. When he was in high school, he was the singer in a band. Pretty cool.

The first time I went, I just made chopsticks out of Cherry tree wood. It took a lot longer than I expected and I got, then proceeded to burst, a blister in the process. I started with two very squared pieces of wood, about chopstick size. I used a small hand-plainer to get the general shape I wanted then a knife to smooth it out, and round the edges. Finally, I used wet leaves to sand it and make it "pika pika" or shiny. (If you're familiar with Pokemon, "pika pika" is the sounds Pikachu makes when he fires his lightning... apparently). The general rule with the sanding was, if you think you're done, keep going. The last step was to oil them and I was done.

I had such a good time, I went back out the next week and brought another friend along. This time I went for a bowl. I was expecting to make a much smaller bowl, but the wood I chose was much bigger and I couldn't waste it. Onizuka taking the chainsaw to my piece of wood (again Cherry tree), might be one of my best memories of Japan in general. Here was this crazy guy, who put my wood on the ground, stabilized it with his shoe-less foot, no safety goggles or gloves, only a cigarette in his mouth, sawing away while wood-chips filled his shoe- and all of this in a beautiful pond-side, mountain view. It was perfect.

I took a chisel and hammer to the slab of wood for a good 4 hours, and it felt like I barely made a dent. My wrist was sore from hammering, my fingers would not open easily from gripping the hammer for so long and my left thumb had been hammered a few too many times, but I still had a great time. I finished it up this last weekend and it looks pretty great. The bottom is especially nice because the wood pretty freshly cut (August....) so the outer part was still a little moist, so a much lighter color. The bottom of the bowl is a nice combination of new and heart wood, so it's very cool looking.

I can see myself going very often from now on. It's such a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.