happy eco-halloween and other twists on the familiar

sunken boat in the fall-it is tied securely to the shore
sunken boat in the fall-it is tied securely to the shore

I received the news of Obama’s victory as I was climbing the stairs up to the Board of Education office after a half day of teaching…I had been listening to music on the drive back and was wondering how it was all shaking out. That day I taught at Nada Elementary School, a school with 16 students total. It was an easy day and I had to rush back to figure out my ecoHalloween constume. So anyways I was running up the stairs and two men in suits about 3 steps ahead of me looked back and asked, “Are you from America?” I replied that I was and one of them calmly said, “Obama just won your election,” and then turned away and kept walking. I was not sure if I had heard correctly, being the cautious optimist I have learned to be. I walked into my office and it was the same quiet office that I had left hours earlier. I was sure that I had heard wrong….I got online and sure enough Obama had won!!!! I looked up and cried out Obama won! (in Japanese of course) and the others just looked up and nodded their heads..Luckily the other ALT who happens to be from Kenya later came back to the office and shared in my joy….this place is REALLY far from Portland. That night I got together with one of the other 2 Americans in town and went out for yakitori to celebrate. It is such a relief that the country is headed towards change. I am sure that more American expats will come out of hiding now that it is safe to do so.

As reported in the news, Obama city in Japan has created a whole marketing and tourism campaign based on the town’s name. Check out their song:

Over the past few days I’ve had conversations with several people about the US election and most comment on how fortunate America is to have a political system that allows for real change. There is an incredible admiration for Obama and a few people have even said that it is wonderful that we elected a Kenyan man to the presidency?!?

Halloween Eco Party performers
Halloween Eco Party performers

Last week on November 5, I was asked to help out at a local school’s Halloween Party. It is hard to get enthusiastic about celebrating a holiday that is already over and even harder to explain away all the Halloween mystique promoted in the media here, but I ended up getting into it and having a lot of fun. The teacher was so excited to have a party that tied together the recycling unit in the science curriculum and the English class, so the kids made decorations from things they pulled from the trash and many of their costumes were made from things they scavenged from their house and school. I made a jellyfish costume (clear umbrella with bubble wrap and plastic bag tentacles-sorry no photos) and played games with them. When I lived here 20 years ago, no one celebrated Halloween and only Christians celebrated Christmas, but both of these holidays are celebrated in Japanese fashion now. The strangest part is that there is absolutely no connection to any sense of tradition and certainly no religious significance. Halloween=costume+candy+jack-o-lanterns+the Great Pumpkin

Christmas=tree+lights(illumination)+presents+ christmas cake +(if you are single) fancy dinner date

At the 100 yen (now about $1.01) shop they are now selling Christmas decorations. I think the reason Thanksgiving will never become popular is that the ovens here are too small to cook turkeys.

Jiro’s been gone 20 days now and will be home in 24 days. Almost to the halfway mark! His show at the Japanese Garden opens at the end of the week. I really wish I could be there, but am glad I am here to enjoy the most beautiful time of the year here. The leaves are just starting to turn colors and it should be prime leave-viewing season in a week or so.

Ryougoji Temple-gingko branch
Ryougoji Temple-gingko branch

The food at this time of year is also luscious…Persimmons, asian pears, satsuma mikan, sanma (Pacific saury), chestnuts, gingko nuts, fall shiitake AND newly harvested rice! At the local supermarket there is a corner in the produce section that features all local produce and food. All the products are marked with the name of the person who grew it or made it and the prices are really cheap. I’ve been buying tsukemono(pickled vegies) for my mother-in-law there and a small bag of satsuma mikan almost every day. We have lots of citrus in our garden and our mikan tree is loaded with fruit that should be ready to start picking in a couple of days. Last year I went out one morning and scared away a monkey from the trees! I wonder if we’ll see it again this year.

ginkgo nuts drying in the temple storage shed
ginkgo nuts drying in the temple storage shed
fresh shiitake
fresh shiitake

books–this week I finished The Space Between Us (Thrity Umrigar), a novel set in India that tells the stories of Sera, an upper-middle class housewife, and her servant Dhima.  The stories of their lives as young women, as young brides and as mothers and as widows are woven together to tell a very powerful, but sad story.

Bamboo-my favorite bamboo growers in Oregon Bamboo Valley in Albany and Bamboo Garden in North Plains. Check out these beautiful bamboo photos.

Ken Tomita in Portland is making some beautiful furniture using bamboo and is involved in some very cool projects.

egrets and tractor
egrets and tractor

2 thoughts on “happy eco-halloween and other twists on the familiar

  1. Ken Tomita November 18, 2008 / 6:37 pm

    hi kate

    thanks for the link. i posted about jiros show a little bit on my blog. he asked me to put a few of my pieces in it so that was exciting.

    i subscribed to your blog. you guys live a pretty interesting life out there. check out mine and subscribe if youd like


  2. Sue November 21, 2008 / 11:23 pm

    You are far from Portland. Last night I went to the Schnitz to see Annie Leibovitz and the bare mention of Obama’s name and the audience clapped. It was nothing about the election… they just were happy to hear his name. It is quite the celebration and I am glued to the news to find out about his cabinet, etc. Far from the grim economic news, that’s for sure.

    Great pics. Miss you, Sue

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