Oh, right, I live in Japan.

And my life is awesome.

Not only do I not have to deal with crappy health care (see below), but I get to have amazing experiences like this last weekend.  And really, nothing truly special happened.  I didn’t find out my book is getting published (kinda hard as I’m on a standstill there), didn’t do anything majorly adventurous–heck, I didn’t even leave the island.  But everything just went really, really well.  Lots of laughter, beautiful weather, great food, it all combined to just make me a  happy camper.  Especially if there weren’t so many mosquitoes.

August 11th through 13th in Japan is this holiday called “O Bon.”  It’s a family festival honoring the ancestors.  Usually, people go back to their parents or even grandparent’s homes, eat lots of food, dance, and have a good time of it.  Supposedly, the olde ancestors also pay a visit to the family shrines, so there’s a great deal of noise making and water splashing to wake those old biddy’s up and get ’em out of the grave.

Heh.

So I spent the first few days of O-bon cleaning.  (Need to clean again, too.  Will wait until Friday.)  Talked to the parents.  (Happy birthday, Mom!)  And then, on Thursday, I picked up my friend Sabsy from the ferry port and the good times began.

The first awesome thing happened right away.

After a snack of some french fries, I took Sabrina and our new friend (Yuka’s replacement) Ava to a place on the island called Sakyobana.  It looks like this:

Apparently it used to be a peace sign before a typhoon destroyed it.

Apparently it used to be a peace sign before a typhoon destroyed it.

Whilst driving to and back from Sakyobana, we noticed there were a whole bunch of people lining the streets of a local neighborhood.  Naturally inquisitive people, we parked in some random spot (eh, it’s Iki, everywhere’s a parking place), jumped out, and wandered in to see what was happening.

Turns out, and I could be wrong here because my Japanese is still a bit… funky, that they’d made this huge collection of branches to do s’more ancestor wakening.  They’d push and pull this contraption (it looked like a dragon to me, about 20 feet long) all the way down the neighborhood and back.  Meanwhile, well-meaning well-wishers toss water on you.

Which, in case you were wondering, meant as soon as they saw foreigners, we got wet, too.

It was hilarious and fun, got some free beers out of it, and I got to talk to some adorable elementary school students.  After three new mosquito bites and maybe two hours, we cut loose to go get sushi.

The next day was pretty usual.  Good beach weather.  The jellyfish are coming out–they’re just babies now, but they still sting.  We wandered around Iki doing more sightseeing, and ended up on my favorite place on the island: Aoshima.  In the spring, it looks like this:

The park, Aoshima, is actually the entirety of a small island, probably about a kilometer in diameter.

The park, Aoshima, is actually the entirety of a small island, probably about a kilometer in diameter.

I received two more new mosquito bites at Aoshima (what can I say?  They love me), played a bit on the zip line and swings, and we were about to leave when Guy decided to test the play toy equipment:

As you can see, it didn't work very well.

As you can see, it didn't work very well.

We finished off the day with our usual Friday Night Curry (delicious!), went home exhausted, and I downloaded 17 Again because I’m ridiculous and like silly movies.  And Zac Efron has dreamy eyes.

Saturday was a big baking day.  Not so much in the way of nice beach weather, so in the morning I made Chocolate Malt Crepes (delicious!).  Then Ava and I made Carrot Cake Cupcakes (delicious!).  We lazed about in my house until around 1:00pm, when more travel ensued!  Up we went to Katsumoto to see the dolphins:

This picture is actually from New Years but, yanno, the dolphins haven't changed.  Sorry it's sideways, I'm lazy.

This picture is actually from New Years but, yanno, the dolphins haven't changed. Sorry it's sideways, I'm lazy.

There was lots of giggling and oohing and aahing involved, and then we stomped on over to one of my favorite restaurants on the island: Mochajavva.

Mochajavva is super good.  They have nice, American-sized hamburgers (delicious!) with optional cheese, bacon, and egg toppings.  Or you can get the basil-pesto sauce vegetable pizza.  Their parfaits are also quite nice, I’m a fan of the mixed berry.  And they make really excellent french fries.  Needless to say, I’m a frequent customer.  The other super cool thing about Mochajavva is that the restaurant is in the oldest building on Iki–goes back pre-Taisho, which is over 85 years ago.  It’s very beautiful, and the atmosphere inside has a sweet blend between modern and late Meishi- early Taisho- periods.

However, contrary to the name Mochajavva, they don’t serve coffee.  Unless you count instant coffee as coffee.  I find this endlessly amusing.

Came back home for some nap-age (awesome), finished making the cupcakes, and then we went bowling.  My high score for the night?  90.  That’s about average for me, I’d say.  What was the most entertaining was my penchant to get NINES.  We have officially nicknamed consistently leaving one pin standing “Kat Bowling.”  Over the course of two games, I had a nine in twelve frames.  It was a little depressing.  And yet hilarious at the same time.

Finally came Sunday, the end of the O-bon festivities, and the big day on Iki.  Up in Katsumoto, in the morning, they have a boat race called “Peron Taikai.”  I think this is to celebrate ancestors who have been injured or killed in boats?  Who knows.  I asked why only men could participate, and found out that it’s because the spirit protecting boats is a woman.  So if a woman is in the boat, then the spirit will get jealous and… something bad will happen.  Or somesuch.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day, and we had a good time walking around and getting more tan.

Katsumoto harbor.

Katsumoto harbor.

They do this big splashy start to try and get ahead of the other team.  I was cheering for blue.  We did not win very often.

They do this big splashy start to try and get ahead of the other team. I was cheering for blue. We did not win very often.

Turn you fools!

Turn, you fools!

The view of the harbor from the starting line.

The view of the harbor from the starting line.

We had to leave the race early so I could drop Sabrina off at the ferry home (sad face!), but I think we got a pretty good feel for it.  Had a lot of fun taking pictures, really enjoyed the scenery, and I may have convinced Guy to participate in at least one of the races next year.  Overall, I think that’s a win.

Ava and I went to the beach after dropping off Sabrina and spent a good time resting.  Except in the water some black-and-white striped fish attacked me, twice!  (Don’t worry, mom, it wasn’t that big.)  This was not so welcome, so I spent more time out of the water than usual.  Am now very, very brown.  Well, at least my top half.

Following the beach, the ALTs went on an adventure to Yunamoto to eat dinner with one of my Flamenco friends.  This very nice lady hosted me at her cottage before, where we ate lots of seafood and chattered away in Japanese.  Sunday’s was more of a usual Japanese barbeque with lots of meet and vegetables, but the food was delicious and the company even better.  More laughter ensued, Ava tried to eat a whole squid (delicious!), and I made up a song to emphasize my love for asparagus.

Finally, night fell, I sprayed myself heftily with mosquito repellant (current bite count as of today, in case you were wondering: TWENTY-TWO.  No, I’m not kidding).  We trooped onto my flamenco friend’s boat, and her very genki boyfriend drove us out into the ocean and up back to Katsumoto, again, to view fireworks.  This was, for some reason, an amazing experience.

The ocean was practically black by the time we set out, and the waves (due to a hefty wind) were pretty high.  The boat jerked and bounced, but not in a way that felt dangerous, just exciting.  We could only see the outlines of the islands surrounding Iki.  Each of us were liberally coated with ocean spray by the time we got to the harbor (about 20 minutes).  Our guides drove us to one of those ledge-thingamabobs that separate the harbor from the ocean (no, I don’t know what they’re called), and we sat back to enjoy the show.

Which was excellent.  Not as good as the one in Fukuoka, but the view here was better, and I wasn’t as obsessed with getting a good picture, so I could enjoy it more.

(Please note my poor editing skills–OMG, I’ve figured out how to add music.)

So this was a really long entry, much longer than usual, certainly, but even so, I really don’t feel like I’ve adequately explained how excellent this last weekend was.  Despite the exceedingly large amount of mosquito bites, I would do it all over again.  So great.  So much fun.  I’m so happy to be here.

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