ホームストレッチ – The Homestretch

After getting back from Tokyo, there was a slight air of sadness having the biggest event of Sandy’s stay behind us, though we still had plenty on our agenda.

When we returned, I had to go to work, so things were basically normal for me.  However that left Sandy with a bit of time which I was fortunately able to fill with Makita Sensei, the lady I teach for.  In her time here, Sandy was basically adopted by her and they were able to enjoy a number of volunteer opportunities at kindergartens and nursing homes.  There were also a number of cultural opportunities that she had which were great as well.

One great example was when Sandy was able to join Makita Sensei and her friend for lunch and then try on a Kimono.  The kimono was beautiful and certainly cost a fair bit.  The nicest ones can cost as much $35,000, though this one was likely only a few thousand.  I think that they are an extremely beautiful type of clothing to really do compliment those wearing them, even in this modern age.  I was able to ask a friend of mine to take a few pictures of her wearing it, so enjoy.

One of the other things that Sandy and I did was shoot a video of me cooking.  This seemed really cool at the time, though in retrospect I’m pretty sure it just paints me as stupid.  Regardless, here it is, how to make curry, my way.  This is the staple of my diet.  Also, there is almost no reason to justify watching this, as it it over 9 minutes long, but here you are…

Other events generally included meeting friends for dinner dates and going out for drinks.  These were always a lot of fun, just quality hanging out, chatting, and bonding with each other.  One of the days we were walking around town Sandy, Ryan and myself decided to do Purikura.  This is basically a photo booth that takes your pictures, allows you to edit them, and then prints them out for you to keep and enjoy.  While this doesn’t really sound like something that would be so popular, it is a staple among the teens and young adults.  They feature different styles and such.  One of the ones we did made our skin paler and eyes larger.  Anyway, here is some of what our session yielded…

One of the days was filled with some random adventures.  The day started with Ryan joining us for the afternoon before we went to Thomas’ for cards and drinks.  When we arrived, we decided to go the hot springs, which is always a fantastic decision.  Being a very cultural activity, we deemed it necessary for Sandy to give it ago, even if it would mean her alone with a bunch of strangers, naked.  On the way there, we decide to take the back road and see a little bit of the area that I hadn’t yet come across yet.  This was a great decision, as we came across some really interesting places I had no idea existed.

One place was a really nice shrine up on a mountain, its completely occluded by trees, so I never even saw it before.  Another area that piqued our interest was a tunnel built into a mountain for no reason at all.  We were driving alone and it caught Ryan’s eye, so we went to investigate.  It was well made, and we even walked through it in all its length.  It connected someones garden to another person’s backyard.  This was absolutely absurd, and actually gave off a bad vibe, since it was such an oddity.

As you can see, it’s really just stuck in the side of a mountain.  While walking through it, we were definitely expecting something like Spirited Away on the other side.

Finally we reached the onsen, where all went well, though them inexplicably switching the location of the men’s and women’s changing rooms made for a moment of panic.

After our dip into heaven, we decided to make something substantial for dinner, nabe.  Basically a Japanese cooked in a big pot at your table, its a popular option during the winter.   But this is a fun dish to make and is really delicious too.  In an earlier instance making it for Sandy, I was still learning how to work the gas burner you cook it on and the think was leaking fumes all over – I didn’t now though.  So when I finally got it hooked in, and I tried to start it, the spark ignited my entire kitchen floor.  the plume of fire rose about 5 feet high, burned all the hair off my legs  in the front areas (despite wearing jeans), and scared the crap out of me.  This time however went without issue, so all we had to do was enjoy it.

My apologies to Sandy, who probably wouldn’t endorse the use of this picture…

After this, we drove over to Thomas’ flat and we just enjoyed some card games, drinks and snacks.  Another great opportunity to relax and get to know each other.   We stayed the night there and upon waking up were presented with a great breakfast as prepared by Thomas.  All very good stuff.  That same weekend we were also able to enjoy a night out on the town, as we went to Drunk Monkeys to meet a few friends.  This night went well and then it was of to bed.

The last day for us was Wednesday, and had me taking off a couple hours to bring Sandy to the bus terminal.  It was a sad departure for sure, since there was no specific plans made to see each other again.  In the end, Sandy coming out was an amazing decision and made for amazing memories for both of us.  She had just as much fun seeing new things as I did showing her around.  Moods were low but spirits were high as we said farewell.  We are both looking forward to the next time we cross paths.

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