From the ocean to the mountains…

Nostalgia is so bittersweet.  I just got home from our high school music concert and while listening to the choral ensemble a flood of some of my best memories swept over me.  I loved every moment of my high school singing career and am so thankful for those years and all of the wonderful people I met along the way. Image

Onto current day adventures…

Last week I had the pleasure of experiencing the best school field trip of my life!! After last year’s trip to the East Coast with 30 8th graders, the worst bout of anxiety and the most annoying tour guide, I swore off travelling with students once and for all.  Obviously that didn’t last very long.

ASIJ’s end of the year field trip for 7th graders is 3 days on the Izu Peninsula where they get to surf, kayak, explore tide pools, snorkel and simply have a blast.  The good thing is that teachers get to do all of those things too!! Each session had a max of 30 students with about eight teacher chaperones.  I stayed for two sessions, which came out to a full school week.  The weather was absolutely perfect; sunny and in the low-mid 70’s the entire time.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better!  Now before you get extremely jealous keep in mind that I had to share a somewhat rustic cabin with 4-6 teenage girls….

Naw…I’d still be jealous too… J

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The view from my cabin.

Izu is a peninsula located about a 4 hour drive south of Tokyo.  It is known mainly for its onsen/hot springs, which are highly valued all over Japan.  However, it’s pristine beaches and great weather attracts just as many people.  Maybe because it was still May, but the area was not crowded at all.  The beaches were basically empty despite the perfect weather and the town itself was pretty quiet.  I guess my comparison is the beaches in San Diego which are guaranteed to be flooded with people if the weather is nice…and usually even if it isn’t.

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The last hour of the drive to the town of Shimoda (which is where Commodore Perry’s black ships landed in 1854) is winding and somewhat sickening, but the views are amazing with lush green mountains, valleys, springs and waterfalls throughout.  Then, finally, as we came around the last bend, I could see it, our final destination….a 7-11 convenie.  Yes, ok, but beyond that…the blue-green expanse of the great Pacific. YES!  I admit, I may have been a little more excited that the students on the bus were just as distracted by the ocean views as I was and ceased their awful singing than I was about seeing the ocean myself, but hey, I see it as a win-win.

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Awesome winding highway…only in Japan!
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Beautiful mountain views

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The guy on the left is in his early 60’s! He was a professional kayaker (whatever that means) and now runs his own shop in Izu. Not a bad gig…

My favorite part of the trip was the sea kayaking. IMG_1286 The first day was windy and the water was quite rough which made it difficult to get past the breakers, but we all managed.  At one point, as another teacher and I were idly chatting while waiting for some students to catch up, I mysteriously fell out of my kayak! I honestly don’t know what happened, but joked that Kevin flipped my kayak and I pretty much stuck to that story the rest of the week! The second time out on the kayak was much calmer and our guides took us to some caves to explore.  The kids (and teachers) loved this!  It was a perfect day to be on the sea and I kept telling myself, “I’m at work…I’m at work!”, but it just wasn’t registering. IMG_1267

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The tide pool was quite incredible as well.  Starfish, crabs, urchins, sea cucumbers, sea hairs and many more sea creatures littered the tide pool for our entertainment.  Watching the students become excited when they discovered a new creature was a pleasure to see.  I think I was the most excited when we came across the baby octopus!

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OCTOPUS!! He got stuck in the low tide so we had to try to get him to deeper water.
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These are all little hermit crabs. They were everywhere!
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Mr. Crab
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Mrs. Starfish
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Sea Hair…my favorite! Some of these were HUGE. This one is a good size, as you can see compared to my foot, but definitely not the biggest.
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Chittons
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Anemone

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I returned from Izu on Friday night and Saturday morning took off again.  This time in the opposite direction to a lake in the mountains to wish a fellow teacher bon voyage as she is leaving ASIJ to teach in Prague next year.  We had many laughs as we played charades, “tell me about yours” and our version of “catch a phrase”.  After many bottles of wine things started to get somewhat viscous; f-bombs were being thrown around like scat in a monkey pen and mock arguments over the rules got a little heated until we were all reminded time and again that no one was keeping score!  All in good humor though.

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View out my window of the fish ponds.
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My room. Ryokans are traditional Japanese hotels with tatami and futon. A lot have an onsen (like this one) and you can walk around in your yukata during your entire stay if you wish.

Our group was the only inhabitants of the ryokan where we stayed.  It was actually a trout farm/ryokan/onsen all in one.  Our dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning was amazing.  Fresh sashimi, grilled fish, a variety of local vegetables and even roasted locusts.  Yes, I said locusts.  Now, my rule in Japan has been to try as much as I can and I’ve only refused on a couple of items.  I am proud to say that I did try one of the locusts. I probably won’t eat one again…but I did try it.  Tasted like nothing really, but the crunch was rather disturbing. I wish I would have taken pictures of the meals because it was quite an amazing spread.  Oh well, I just have to go back.

Sunday we went on a nice walk up in the mountain.  My dumbass only brought my sandals since I quickly transferred some items from my Izu bag into an overnight bag and forgot to bring any tennis shoes.  I’m a dumbass because there is still snow in the mountains.  Yes, I hiked in the snow with sandals.  Like the locusts, I can say I did it, but probably don’t need to repeat that experience.

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Mountain stream
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You can’t see them, but the Japanese Alps are in the background
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Our crew. Jane is to my right and I hope to visit her next summer in Prague. She is a lovely person and will be missed…
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Lunch at a pizza shop. I tried a blueberry pizza. It tasted like cheese and blueberries. Go figure.
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Dumb. Ass.
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…but worth it!
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Beautiful!

Needless to say this week back at school was a bit tiring, but all worth it.  I can’t believe that only three weeks of school remain! Wow-this first year went by so fast!  Literally on the last day of school I am off to Thailand and Bali.  I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading and I truly miss you all.  Be on the lookout…I have a few more posts coming.

Xoxox

K

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5 thoughts on “From the ocean to the mountains…

    1. I do have pics of the onsen I went to and will post them in my next blog. Actually thought I had posted here but I guess not!

  1. So beautiful! I love snow hiking in sandals…I can’t totally relate to that level of hurried packing. Miss you lots and love reading about your adventures. Your students are lucky to have you.

  2. Tough job you have. What a wonderful trip ane the pics so awesome, thank you for sharing and I could not be envious, you are doing what I would like and I find joy from that. Love u, Mom

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