Monday, December 22, 2008

My Solo Trip to Honolulu

Tomorrow Yuri comes to Hawaii. Perhaphs I need to explain myself a little better than that. Yuri came to visit shortly after I moved to Napa. She applied to Napa Valley College and got in. Then she decided to come. So for the last two months she has been in Japan trying to get her life squared away enough so that she can go on another adventure. It is a tireing thing to do. She flys into Honolulu tomorrow with Eri, Kentaro and Sayaka. So I am going to go surprise her at the airport.
Flew over with Dad this morning.

And then began to walk around Honolulu.

I think I really like Honolulu. This is the first time I have really been alone with the city, and on closer inspection, I think I could live here.

Starting tomorrow I will be traveling again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things I need to get off my chest

Hello everyone. Chances are that, by now, due to the lack of regular activity, you have stopped regularly checking my blog. This is my own fault. I have been so busy working and sorting out numerous other important things in my life, that I simply haven't had time. Ironically, this is probably the period of my life when I will look back and wish that I had kept more regular notes. I have had many incredible experiences over the last several months, and many would have made good stories. Unfortunately, I will probably not get the chance to tell them here anytime soon.

But I do need to talk to you about some other stuff. Several things have been happening to me recently, and I really need to put them into words so that I can come to terms with them. Here is one of the big ones.

The Story of my Dog
We were on our way to Fukushima, driving along Route 4. Traffic was heavy, and the road was thin. It was raining and there was a little bit of thunder and lightning. Yuri had just finished asking me what twilight was, and I responded by saying "Right now." Suddenly, traffic slowed down in front of us, and we noticed a big, dark colored mut dog limping up the side of the road. I noticed that blood was pouring out of his mouth. I made Yuri stop the car, and ran back to see if the dog was ok. He wasn't. He was limping up the road and into a forest, but was unable to step up out of the street and onto the sidewalk for some reason. Trucks were coming within one foot of hitting him. I tried to coax him out of the street. He wouldn't come. I tried to push him on to the sidewalk. He tried to bite me. He walked a little more and began to lose his balance. He stumbled into traffic. A truck stopped just before hitting him. I pushed him out of the way of the truck and he laid down on the curb. Yuri showed up and I told her to call the police. She called. The police said they couldn't help. We called vets. The vets asked if it was a stray, and we said we didn't know. We couldn't get close enough to see if there was a collar. The vets told Yuri that they wouldn't treat the dog if it was a stray, and that it was past business hours. By now it was dark. Yuri went back to get her car, and I stayed and held an umbrella over the dog. Trucks and cars sped by, inches from hitting the umbrella and the dog. I waved at passing cars. At first urging them to slow down, but soon I was begging them to stop. If someone would just stop their car, I would be able to throw a blanket over the dogs head and lift it on to the sidewalk without being hit by a car or bitten. Hundreds of cars passed. No one stopped. Finally Yuri showed up, again. Together we were able to stop traffic long enough for me to lift the dog on to the sidewalk.

And then I began to realize how bad the situation was. The dog wasn't fighting me anymore. And it's body was racked by spasms evert 10 breaths. All I could do was pet him and tell him that he was good. Yuri called some more people. Finally, a girl parked her car, and the two of them began to call. Then the police showed up, most likely because someone had seen me crouched on the edge of the road acting strangely. The police were not impressed that all of the commotion was over a dog. We finally found a vet willing to take a dog who had no identifiable owner, and was willing to work after business hours. I lifted the dog into the back of the car of the girl who stopped. The police were nice enough to make sure we got to the vet. The vet took the dog out of the car, and put him on the operating table. We then discovered that his abdomen had a gash in it as big as my fist. I sat in the chair next to the operating table and stared into the dogs eyes for several minutes. I couldn't look away. I have seen death, but I have never seen death look back. It changed something in me, but in a way that is neither good nor bad. While I looked into his greying eyes, I saw what looked like calmness. Relief. Not quite satisfaction, but relief.

The vet made us leave, and we went to Eri's house. We got a phone call about an hour later saying that the dog had put up a good fight, but there was nothing the vet could do. Then lightning struck the powerlines outside of Eri's house, and the lights went out. I didn't sleep that night.

I learned something. But I am having trouble figuring out what it is. Part of it is the satisfaction of knowing that I really did all I could do. Part of it is the realization that all I can do wasn't enough, and there is nothing to be satisfied about. Part of it is seeing that, in fact, my high school psychology text book was right, and that the average person will not go out of their way to help a stranger. And part of it is knowing that, if I ever see someone or some creature in distress, I had better offer help, because chances are that no one else will.

None of these are really positive lessons. But there is one inspiring thing about this story. Even though he had been hit by a car so hard that his abdomen burst open, even though he was coughing blood, his tail and legs were all shattered in multiple places, even though he had to walk uphill, inches from the cars which had just hit him, at night, during an incredible thunderstorm, the dog kept walking until his legs literally collapsed. He even tried to get up several times, while I was petting him waiting for Yuri. He was trying to get home. And when I looked into his dying eyes, I knew that he was a good dog.

And at least I was able to tell him that he was a good boy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hokkaido Trip, First 10 Days

Ok, so it isn't as easy to post from the road as thought it would be. But here is the rundown of my trip so far:

Day 1: Boarded the ferry in Nigata. Steerage class, of course, so slept on the floor of a big common room. Ferry was actually really nice.
Day 2: Arrived in Otaru at 4:30am. Walked around Otaru for the next 9 hours. Once the shops opened at 10:00am, went to a Kamaboko (Fish Cake) factory and had fantastic kamaboko. Then went to a music box factory, candy factory, cake factory and various other shops. More Koreans and Chinese tourists in Otaru than Japanese tourists. Drove to Sapporo. Went to cookie factory. Stayed to a net cafe inside a shopping mall.
Day 3: Didn't sleep very well in the net cafe, so went back to the car and slept in the parking lot of a shopping mall. Slept very well. Woke up, walked around Sapporo. Saw Ainu exhibit, Sapporo city hall, central park, Sapporo University. Ate Ramen for dinner and drove to another net cafe.
Day 4: Worked at the net cafe. Got a little sleep. Woke up, drove to a park and slept some more. Went to a milk factory. Ate the best pudding I have ever had in my life. Went to Sapporo beer factory. Went to Kirin beer factory. Went to Salmon park. Drove into the mountains. Got really lost in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception and a half tank of gas (road was closed, even though it appeared on the map). Got un-lost. Parked in a parking lot for a public park. Slept.
Day 5: Woke up, went to space museum. Went to Ainu museum. Had the curator of the museum give us a private tour. Helped him translate some of the exhibit descriptions into English. Left just as hundreds of high school students showed up. Drove and drove and drove and drove. Went to "Hell Valley" at Noboribetsu onsen. Took a very hot bath at a very small bed and breakfast style onsen. Drove to Muroran. Ate dinner on the dock and slept in the marina parking lot.
Day 6: Drove to Date. Got a tour of the local history museum by the curator. Drove up to Lake Toya (where the G8 had been one week before). Saw that the place where the G8 meeting was basically an inaccessible fortress on a hill. Saw the 40 year old volcano next to it. Drove and drove and drove. Arrived in Hakodate. Went to Kelp factory. Ate kelp ice cream. Went to downtown Hakodate. Found a watch on the ground and turned it into the police. Got a recommendation from the policewoman for a Ramen shop. At the spiciest Ramen on my life. Walked around Hakodate at night. At 10:00pm, drove to the top of Mt. Hakodate to see the night view. Slept in the car at the top of Mt. Hakodate.
Day 7: Walked around Hakodate some more. Went to another Ainu museum. Had another museum curator give us a tour. Drove to the old Hakodate fortress. Drove south. Stopped in the middle of nowhere and went to the hottest onsen I have even been to (other than Kusatsu). Drove to the tiny of Fukushima, famous for its dried squid and sumo wrestlers. Slept in the parking lot of a Sumo museum.
Day 8: Went to Sumo museum. Went to Seikan tunnel museum. Drove to Matsumae. Saw Matsumae castle. Drove. Drove. Drove. Got on Freeway. Drove. Drove. Got off freeway at Yubari. Slept in parking lot near freeway exit.
Day 9: Toured Yubari. At a mellon. Drove to Asahikawa. Stayed up all night working in a net cafe.
Day 10: Went to Asahiyama zoo. Drove to Wakanai. Camped on a hill over looking the town.
Day 11: Toured Wakanai. Ate Russian food. Worked in the car. Went to an onsen. Drove to Sarufutsu.

And that brings us up to now. We are, as I type, driving along the north coast of Hokkaido.

Wild Animals seen:
Foxes - 12
Deer - 4
Bears - 0

We are going into a place that supposedly has the highest density of brown bears in the world, so hopefully that last number will be going up.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hokaido Roadtrip, Shupatsu!

Shupatsu is what you say in Japanese when you set off on a journey.

I know. It's been a really long time. Things in my life got, and continue to be, busy. Plus, now I work on the computer, so I when I am on the computer I feel like I should be working. So my posts are going to be short for a while.

What happened? The short version. Kira and Ryan came and visited Japan. Went to the US to help Mom and Dad. Y came. Trained myself to be a webmaster. Missed Y, and came back to Japan. Applied to school. Was rejected. So know I am spending as much time as I can with Y before my visa expires and I return to the US to work with Mom and Dad.

In Japan I have had some adventures. BBQ in Nagano. Saw a Kamoshika at Shima Onsen. Carjacked by a monkey in Nikko.

And now Y and I are setting off on a month long road trip that should take us through most of northern Japan. We got us at 3:30 this morning so that we could make it onto the freeway before 4am in order to take advantage of a 40% discount. Today we will arrive in Nigata, board a ferry and sleep on the floor with the other ferry passengers durring the 17 hour trip to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The Alaska of Japan, in a way.

I bought a mobile phone internet plan, so I should have internet for most of the trip. Expect updates. However, since it is mobile phone based internet, pictures are going to be a little difficult. I'm still figuring that part out.

Please, spread the word. The adventure never stopped, but the story begins again!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Last Days in Shibukawa

Well, there hasn't been a post for a while. Sorry about that. Thanks for not giving up on me. The truth is I became so busy that I simply did not have time to finish this post until long after the date.

So here it is. The end of my story in Shibukawa.

Here is a picture taken of my very last class. As the time for me to leave got closer and closer, I got more and more nostalgic. I was on the verge of tears at the end of nearly every class.
I had a rather large lump in my throat by the end of this one. Here is the classroom, empty after my students had all left.
And here I am saying goodbye to the librarians at one of my schools.
And saying goodbye to my Japanese class.
I have thought and thought about which stories to tell about my last 3 weeks in Shibukawa. I could tell about how I got thank you cards from about 1000 of my students. I could tell you how I acted in a farewell performance for the 6th year students in one school, and I broke down crying in front of the 6th grade students in my other school when one of my students read me a thank you letter which he had written in English. I could tell you about the last day of cleaning the school, and the last night of cleaning my room. I could tell you about how the teachers at my school bought me running shoes. I have lots more. But I only have one story to tell.

Everyday I rode my bike to school. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I passed an old man who always sat on the side of the road. Every time I passed him I said "Good Morning" in Japanese. Every time he heard my "Good Morning" he looked surprised and mumbled something. Finally, on my last day in Shibukawa, after I said "Good Morning" he stopped me. "Are you Japanese?" he asked. I looked closely at his face for the first time. His eyes were gray and white and looked in very different directions. This man, I realized, was blind. "No," I replied, "I am from Hawaii." "Oh," the man answered "Then you are an English teacher at the school." I told him I was, and that it was my last day. "Well thank you for always saying 'Good Morning'." He said as I mounted my bike. I saw a glimmer of something in that moment. I had actually had an effect on the town of Shibukawa, perhaps. Maybe I had actually made a difference in people's lives. As I rode away I though to myself "I did a good job."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

えいちゃん (pronounced "A" chan)

When I knew for certain that I would be moving to Japan, almost 2 years ago now, I drove with mom and dad down to Kona and spent an entire day buying souvineers from Hawaii that I could give to people who I met. We wandered into one shop which sold lots of stuffed animals. I Decided that it would be a good idea to buy a few Hawaiian stuffed animals, just in case I met anyone with small children. I bought a shark, an octopus, and a manta ray.

Months passed. Eventually I arrived in Japan and learned that I would be teaching grammar school, a worrying prospect since I had almost no experience with small children. I was told by my vice-principal that I should come up with a lecture which would introduce myself and the place where I came from. If I had something from Hawaii, the kids would love to see it. Well, aside from dozens of key chains, macadamia nuts and coffee, the only "Hawaiian" things I brought were an aloha shirt, a Hawaii state flag, pants with fish on them, and my stuffed animals. All of which I brought to first few classes. In the second or third class I ever taught, I ran out of stuff to talk about with about 15 minutes left in class. Embarased that I had no other plan, I looked into my suitcase and saw the manta ray. I pulled it out and tried to explain (my Japanese was barely passable at the time) that if anyone raised their hand to ask a question, I would throw them the stuffed animal. I began to swing the manta ray by the tail, and the class perked up. 15 minutes ended in no time.

Throwing the manta ray into the audience soon became a feature of all my intro classes. And the rougher I threw the stuffed animal, the more the class laughed. I began subjecting the manta ray to various kinds of tortures, from playing soccer with it, to using it as a pad when I sat down in class. The more slapstick the routine, the more the kids laughed, and the easier class was.

And yet, while class grew easier and easier the more I abused the manta ray, my experiences outside of class grew more and more difficult. Students began to slap me, kick me, punch me, kancho (made famous as the "1000 Years of Pain" by the anime Naruto) me, and attack me in horrible new ways that only the innocent mind of a child can devise. My only recourse in these attacks was to stand there and take it, unable to even scold the children (since I was not yet capable of speaking the language).

It was not long before I noticed the similarity between the way I treated the manta ray stuffed animal and the way I was being treated. I decided to cease the slapstick routines, and, within a month, the student's abuse of me also (mostly) stopped.

It was at that point that I realized that the manta ray stuffed animal was very important. I began taking it to school with me everyday. I began addressing it as "my friend" in front of the kids. I encouraged them to be nice to it, and I gave it a name: えいちゃん (like the letter "A" + chan), which translates as "Little Ray". That December I returned to Hawaii for Christmas. Knowing that I had come to depend on えいちゃんin class, I went back to the store with the stuffed animals and bought a spare to ensure against the very likely possibility of えいちゃん disappearing.

So for an entire year, えいちゃん and I have been partners. She comes with me to every class (and the days she doesn't come tend to be rough days for me). She is my bomb when we play timebomb. Her tail is my microphone when students want to say something. She waves her fin and says "hello" and "goodbye" to the students whenever she makes an appearance. She is my example of a friend. She is the prize for all my games (more on that later). She is my ALT (Assistant Language Teacher, what I am supposed to be).

And this is what has happened to her. Here she is side by side with the spare manta ray, which I have not used in class even once.
She has become real. That color is from being rubbed against the cheeks of hundreds of children. From being squeezed. From being chewed on. From being hidden in my shirt, only to emerge halfway through class to the elated shouts of my students. From being used as a hat. From accidentally being tossed into the sink. From being loved. And when you look in her eyes, she looks back.
And what have I become? I can't be so presumptuous as to assume that I am real too. Even if I have parts that move, or am shinny (mostly on my head these days), or can do tricks like talk, or write blog entries about things being real, doesn't make me real. I really don't know if I am real or not. But I did notice something recently, something which had changed. This next picture is one of the prizes that I made for my kids. When they win any sort of contest in class I sing part of "The Overture of 1812" and produce one of these from my pocket. On the back I write "Prize!" and then explain what the prize is for.
Then the other day I noticed, that I did a really good job making this stamp (it is, by the way, a stamp I made from an eraser). So I made another, and that was pretty good too. Then I tried drawing something, and I was good at that also. Then I made a website, and I thought I did a rather good job (you can see this website at . It is a mobile phone website, though, so on a computer it will look tiny). The point is, I don't think I have really gotten better at any of this stuff, and I don't think that everything I do is great. But being a grammar school teacher has forced me into situations were I really just need to be good at something (like drawing or singing or dancing or sports or making pleasent conversation in another language with parents who hate you) so many times, that, at this point, I don't think about how I might not be able to do it, I just patiently sit down and do a good job. It is a funny feeling to suddenly believe that, in fact, you really can do anything you set your mind to, even if you are already 25. This must be how dad feels.

And it's all because I too have had the privilege of being rubbed on cheeks and squeezed and chewed on and tossed around. And loved. And when you realize that last part, it makes it really hard to leave. I have decided to offer the unused manta ray (who is longing to be real too) to the teacher who will replace me in April. えいちゃん and I want to stay together, since we are off on our next adventure, who knows to where yet.

And finally, here are some pictures on last weekend.

Outdoor onsen during snowstorm.
For some reason, after the outdoor onsen during a snowstorm, Yuri wanted to eat ice cream. So we did.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

January's Leftovers

So, here are the pictures of Disneyland. As you can see, winter rains couldn't stop us! (Though they did make us stop to eat/warm up more than Yuri would have liked.)
Here is the Japan-only Christmas Haunted Mansion ride. Japan loves the Nightmare Before Christmas.
And here is something amazing that I saw that I had to show the world. Japan is the land of vending machines. This much you know. Now you may have heard of vending machines that sell everything from canned soup to used women's underwear (the later no longer exists, by the way). But this is the most amazing vending machine I have ever seen because it is not only bizarre by American standards, but also a really good idea who's time is past.
This vending machine sells fresh eggs. It is located next to a chicken farm in Gunma-machi. As you walk by, you can pay an insanely low price (I think it was something like 10 yen for an egg) and buy individual eggs. The eggs don't drop out, it works like a newspaper dispenser. And the eggs are fresh, having been laid that very day. This vending machine, however, seems to be one of the last of its kind. The problem with vending machine eggs is that eggs are really hard to transport without something to put them in. You can't just put them in your pocket. Still, the idea of fresh eggs from a farmer you know stirs the nutritional romantic in me.

So on to other stuff. What have I been up to? Well, aside from teaching, I have been trying to learn how to make multilingual websites, edit photos with the GIMP, write programs in PHP, design websites with CSS, etc. Basically, I am using the cold winter weather as an excuse to stay inside and work on some of my nerd skills.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Maybe my best day of teaching

So, last weekend Yuri and I went to Disneyland. No pictures. No story really. But I'll never forget it. By the way, if you decide to go to Tokyo Disneyland, go during the winter, during a rain storm. You only have to wait in line for 45 minutes for the best rides.

It's been a long time since I have written about work. I mostly don't talk about work because of privacy issues, but also the majority of the time work is almost the same everyday. With a substantial number of quirks of course.

But the thing about working in grammar school is that it is never the same, and when it is good it is amazing. Today was one of the amazing days.

This week has been rough. I have been exhausted all week due to my late nights, long hours and cold weather. Wednesday was like a fight to stay awake. On Thursday I had people asking me all day if I was sick. So I got alot of sleep and went to school on Friday with a simple goal: get through my 5 classes (the rare maximum number) and go home. I got the school, prepared my classes, found my happy place and went to class. I think I did OK during my four back to back hours of teaching. During that time I sang the ABC song no less than 18 times (not an exaggeration), asked "How are you?" maybe 120 times (roughly) and said "Hello" even more times than that (since I say "hello" to every student I pass). Finally, it was lunch time. I ate silently at my desk in the teachers room and helped myself to a second helping of pumpkin soup. I cleaned up my tray and went to the hand wash area outside to brush my teeth.

As I brushed, I heard what sounded like a stampede headed my direction. I turned around to see a tide of about 20 Third Grade students swarming around me. I stood there stunned, my toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. The students stood there smiling then asked if they could sing Edelweiss for me, at which point they began to sing Edelweiss in English. Cornered, I did the only thing I could do. I spit, washed my toothbrush, and used it as a conductor's baton. To my surprise, the kids actually followed my baton! 15 more kids showed up and began to sing in the back. The first set finished and the kids asked me to conduct again. This time I warmed them up and really got into it. Keeping time with my brush, I used my hands and face to encourage the kids to express more emotion, or quiet down. Behind all the kids, a second grade teacher had shown and was grabbing passing kids and bringing them into the hand wash area to add to the crowd. After singing the song as a big group, all the Third graders broke into small groups and I went through and practiced with them in small groups. I passed the entire remainder of the lunch break conducting kids singing Edelweiss with my toothbrush. Then the bell rang and the kids dispersed. At that point I almost cried. What I saw was beautiful. Maybe my best moment as a teacher.

But I have to say maybe. There was that time I dressed as Santa and went around giving everyone cards, then ran to eat lunch with a class, who, as it turned out, had skipped lunch so that they could write thank you cards to me in return. Or that Fourth grade girl who had developed a phobia of school and refused to go to normal class, but wasn't afraid to go to my class. Or the special needs boy who loves my ABC flashcards so much that he comes to me at lunch every Tuesday and goes over the ABCs with me. Or the two pre-school girls who feud over me. Or the seriously ill girl who thanked me for trying to cheer her up by reading her a picture book (it turned out she had gone blind temporarily).

No, it is true. While my life may be headed in a direction that is not teaching, there very little doubt in my mind that I will become a grammar school teacher in the end. There is simply no job I could ever do that would be more important.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Yuri's Trip to Hawaii

A lot has changed recently. What follows is one of the smaller changes. This month's post will not be about me. This post is about Yuri's trip to Hawaii. I just happen to be the one behind the camera in most of the pictures. However, before we switch over to her, I have an amazing story about me.

So I flew into the Big Island, had dinner with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Clay (who I was very glad to see), got up early the next morning at 5:00am and drove to the airport to catch a plane to Oahu, where I was meeting Yuri at about 7:30am. I checked to make sure I had my wallet several times. I knew for a fact that it was on the passenger seat next to me. Yet somehow, when I got to the airport, my wallet was gone! I searched everywhere, to no avail. Finally, with only 45 minutes before my plane took off, and with no way to contact Yuri (who honestly, would have had a great time even if I had never shown up), I panicked and called Grandma Mary with instructions to bring my passport and whatever cash she had to the airport as fast as possible. She got there just in time, I ran through security, got to the gate and relaxed. About one minute later, security showed up at the gate and announced over the loudspeaker that they were looking for me. They had found my wallet. It was lying in the middle of the road. Not even in the parking lot, but the middle of the street. To this day I have no idea how it got there.

On to Yuri. Yuri arrived in Honolulu, we rented a car...
And went to the USS Bowfin museum at Pearl Harbor. Here I am with an ICBM. Observe the hand sign.
And Yuri on the deck of the USS Bowfin.
It was very interesting going to Pearl Harbor with Yuri. She really wanted me to take a picture of her with this suicide submarine because her grandfather had been in the Japanese navy during the war and when she got home he would want to see the photos. It kind of moves me to think that, when grandparents were our age they were enemies, but 65 years later we are touring Pearl Harbor together. Time changes everything.
Saw a Zero...
And the Mighty Mo.
Yuri really liked the Battleship. Maybe because she has a lot in common with it.
This is the place where Japan surrendered to the United States.
After Pearl Harbor, we went to visit the Hitachi Tree in Moanalua Gardens.
And take a rest.
That afternoon, after another nap, we strolled down Waikiki and saw the sunset.
The next day we went to Nu'uanu Pali...
Ate Spam Musubi...
And got lost in the maze at the Dole Pineapple plantation.
So, that evening we flew into Kona, and met the family for dinner. Then went to the house and met Portia.

The next day we saw three whales just off the shore
Here we are going for a run at HPA.
The next day we went snorkeling and saw this three finned turtle.
I also took this picture, which is the last photo my camera ever took. Even though I did everything right, my waterproof camera stopped being waterproof and was destroyed. Luckily (thanks to Yuri's expert advice) I have a full warranty, bought the camera with a credit card that had insurance and was able to save the memory card. Hopefully I will be getting a new one.
So I borrowed cameras for the rest of the pictures on this post. Shaved ice at Anuenue Shaved Ice in Kawaihae...
The Pertoglyph Park in the Puako forest...
And a shot to show how beautiful Hawaii can be in the winter.
Here is Yuri, having completed decorating the Christmas tree.
So then Kira, Ryan, Yuri and I decided to take a trip around the island. I was feeling much more adventurous this time than usual, so I made some random stops that turned out to be very good choices. This is a free coffee tasting bar in Kona that I stopped at on an impulse.
Pu'u Honua 'O Ho'onaunau.
Impulse stop number two: a pretty good fruit stand.
And then we went to South Point to jump off the cliffs.
Me, midair. Too bad it is all washed out.
Me and Yuri in the water. She jumped too!
Some other Japanese tourists were there watching and were very impressed by Yuri's courage.
Here is that scary, scary ladder.
The bakery.
Kilauea. (These are all places in previous posts, if you want to know more about them try doing a search of my blog.)
Steam vents.
In front of Halemaumau.
So, with the four of us we actually had the courage to go to the very back of the Thurston Lava Tube at night. Yuri was small enough to actually crawl and touch the end of the cave.
So, I had planned on camping, but since we didn't have a tent I decided we didn't need one. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell Kira that we didn't have a tent, just a tarp. Then it started raining. She was, understandably, a little irritated with me. The end result was that Kira and Ryan slept in the car, and Yuri and I slept outside. It was raining. The wind was blowing. But it was warm, sort of dry, and you could see the stars as you fell asleep. I honestly have never slept better in my whole life. Well, the 3 hours that I was actually asleep for, that is.
So the next day we began to drive home. Kira and Ryan had us stop at this natural pool that they knew about. We hiked down to it, and concluded that the water was flowing just a bit to fast for a swim to be a good idea. Kira said she was going to go the the bathroom, so I started back to the car. Then Kira and Ryan went swimming anyway.
So I took pictures.
We found this cool Banyan Tree...
Near Akakakakaka falls.
The next day we flew Ryan to Honolulu.
It was Yuri's first time in a small plane.
On the way back we went to Molokai...
And Yuri got to try flying the plane!
Here we are the next day with Cina and Chenzo at the Hilton.
Saw the dolphins.
Rode the Rhinos.
Debated with the Nene.
Here is Yuri throwing away garbage at the Puako Transfer Station. How many Japanese tourist get to do that!
Here is Christmas morning.
All the stuff.
Grandpa Clay.
Grandma Mary.
Kira in a Pikachiu costume.
Portia with a Santa Hat. Man did she hate this part.
Two days later we met the Bleechers up in Waimea for a hike. First we hiked to the back of Waipio (which was clear for the first time I can remember).
Then the next day we drove up Mana Road and went to the Douglas Memorial and the Hakalau Bird Sanctuary.
Saw some rare native Hawaiian birds.
Saw some nice forests, and had a scare about the car.
Two days later, we went to Kona and went to Scandanavian Shaved Ice.
I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu: the large with everything on it.
I was as big as my head, proven by the fact that I could put my hat on it. That was a lot of shaved ice. I will never order that much shaved ice again, but I am so glad I did it!
Me at a party, wearing Grandpa's bowtie.
Mom dancing.
McManus and Bleecher families at Paniolo for breakfast.
Yup. And that is a photographic version of Yuri's trip to Hawaii.

I think I do have to talk a little bit more about myself, unfortunately. There have been some major developments in my life recently. One of them is that I have developed a serious, serious intrest in web design. I just built my first website using nothing but notepad++. So you may see a format change on the 6 Billionth Voice sometime soon, since I will finally know how to edit the HTML and not just input text.

And once again, thanks for reading!