another hiatus? really?

Busy, hectic times.  I’ve nearly finished George Meegan’s book; I’m learning teensy bits of Japanese (trying not to cross my eyes when I hear the variations which MAY occur and reminding myself that English is hardly a stranger to this; my daughter was pointing out words which sound alike but which have very different meanings which must be determined from context, and I thought about homophones in English (which and witch, there and they’re and their–that sort of thing; she says that in hiragana they will be spelled the same, but the differences are plain in kanji).  I really think I need to buckle down and learn AT LEAST hiragana or katakana so that I can sound things out.  I’ve also discovered that so many American-adopted words can be figured out with a bit of effort:  boo-rou-soo for blouse, for example.

I’m trying to get back to my t’ai chi practice to add to walking, and I’m now seriously looking at “stuff” at REI and other shops.

But, really, the only walking-related progress I can point to is coming up next week when the kids and I are going to Sequoia for a last camping trip before Michelle goes away to college 😦

We’ll have lots of nifty hikes there.  I’ll post…REALLY…I WILL!


Oh, and I have to include a link to a site that may be a rich source for me to pore over pre-trip.  It’s a tourism site encouraging strolls along sections of the Old Tokaido inShizuoka Prefecture.  There are maps, tips, historical notes, and so on, and they’re available both in English and Japanese.  Now I realize this only sees through less than 1/2 of the posts on the Old Tokaido, but that’s still a great start:

 Attractions on the Old Tokaido Road, Shizuoka Prefecture


OK, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here.  I plead…well…busy-ness.  Michelle and I have been shopping and making up the itinerary for her soon-move to Pennsylvania.  My neighbor whose husband works for Google has added me to the Google+ beta, and I’m seeing if that will be a good way to talk to my daughter when she’s away at college.  I’m trying to get a jump on my new Film & Lit class (I’m only on lecture 3, but I have the framework of the class all set up).

On the learning Japanese front, I’m still not the wunderkind that would make a language teacher beam.  Ito sensei has saved some conversational Japanese cassettes (and accompanying books) for me, and that’s a blessing, but I”m still distractable by the little things.  I was reading episode 23 of Hikaru No Go, and I came across henohenomoheji–doodling with Japanese characters.  Michelle remembers Kazumasa showing her simple nonomo face drawings when he stayed with us.  Here’s a simple site with some information:


And I’m been reading George Meegan’s book The Longest Walk in bits; he’s reached Central America at this point.  Aside from feeling that I’d really not enjoy the hardship that even a yoshikart could not make up for, I’m struck by how the walking diary is really a love story.  And putting this together with Kintaro Walks Japan (Kintaro is in love with Ayumi, George and Yoshiko Meegan’s daughter), the whole thing washes over me with joy and relationship.

It’s a very busy time, but I’ve not vanished.


rarely used: “watashi wa anata wo aishiteru”

It’s Father’s Day, and what a lovely gift appeared on the dining room table this morning.  There were also balloons that Jamahl (one of our cats) had managed to untie from the back of a chair, and I’d gotten a much-needed early gift of BBQ utensils last night.

But the gift this morning was completely unexpected: Living Language Japanese (book, CDs, dictionary) and a pocket travel dictionary.

Now my feet are really to the fire; I was dawdling with the basic text and workbook Michelle brought home from her Japanese class(es), and my excuse (which was a real one) was that the CDs were missing, so it was hard for me to practice in the car, while playing World of Warcraft, walking along the beach, just noodling around the office.  This set comes with four CDs to help me practice some words, phrases, sentences, dialogues.

I love that it says Complete in the title.  I’m pretty sure four CD’s won’t have me mastering the entire language.  But I’m also pretty sure that it will give me the rudiments I need to ask directions to the nearest bathroom or hotel or restaurant or telephone or bank.  And I can, quite possibly, stuff four CDs worth of information into my greying skull.

Added to Ito sensei’s help, my GameBoy DS Japanese Tutor game, a number of websites many of you have been so kind to share with me, I should be on my way.  Along those lines, I learned this morning that Japanese rarely use the phrase “I love you.”  Of course the word love is befuddled with loads of meaning (Platonic love is not romantic love is not motherly love is not love of Snickers candy bars).  Several sites did teach me how to say “I love you” (and love the thoughtfulness of the Father’s Day gifts), but it also gave me some interesting notes on “love” Vs. “like”:

watashi wa anata wo aishiteru (I love you)

watashi wa anata wo daisuki desu (I like you…with various ending options… delete desu, add da if you are male, etc.)

I’d better memorize the difference… this sort of thing could get me into trouble!


“the best laid plans…gang aft agley”

OK, Michelle and I were considering our getting-her-installed-at-Penn-State options, and the Road Trip looked like the best option (though she though I should not join a sorority).  A five (maybe six) day drive through Four Corners, across Kansas, stopping at my relatives in Indianapolis, on down into Pennsylvania would be long and tiring but fun.  And we now own just about every Glee CD on the planet, so we could sing across America.  There was the added advantage of being able to shop for all of her stuff here and hauling it rather than cramming what we could onto a plane and joining the mad shopping rush near college.

I didn’t want to make the solo trip home, so the idea of a one-way rental car seemed to fit the bill.  Bill is right.  I looked into it, and by drop-off in State College the car alone would cost me over $1700 (economy model); the one-way luxury adds a lot to the cost.  Factor in gas, hotels, souvenirs from half a dozen Mystery Spots along the way, and this move was looking prohibitively expensive.

The train is a possibility (I love train travel), but if we popped for the cheapest sleeper (and we would; it’s a 57-hour trip), the price is still pretty steep (though we would not have to add gas and hotels).  The downside is the stations are quite where we want them to be, and trains are not always on time.  I’d hate to be stuck in Chicago an extra day and not get to college on time.  Though, honestly, I’m not too worried about that; we could leave early.

Another option (and the one that’s at the head of the list at the moment) is taking the plane to Raleigh and visiting my brother and his family for a couple of  days before getting a car to drive 8 hours up to State College.  This has the one downside of traveling with quite a bit of stuff on the plane there (and I’m not a huge plane fan), but we could manage a couple of checked bags, and we could do the rest of the dorm shopping in Raleigh while my brother and his wife are at work.  We’d have a rental car (relatively cheap because I’d return it to Raleigh airport and take the plane back).

This also gets in the way of my mad desire to shop for all of the stuff on The Definitive Freshman Checklist .  I’m excited to shop for gizmos and gadgets with my daughter.

Pluses and minuses and practice:  figuring out how to pare down here world so that she can have a comfortable, efficient, fun mini-world in her 1/2 of a standard college dorm (and further paring down that list to figure out how to pack necessities for the plane) is good practice as I’m  considering how to pack things Tetris-like into a hiking pack for a long walk down the eastern shore of Japan.


Penn (State), Packs, Palanquins, Planes, and so on

My daughter and I are just back (got in at 2 a.m.) from Penn State where she had orientation and registration and where I (along with about 200 other parents there for one of the many FTCAP days) learned about paying for it all.  The Eastern Seaboard is enjoying a ridiculously-hot spell.  Ironically, when we visited the campus last year there was a freakishly hot spell as well.  I had more free time than Michelle, so I hiked around the campus (big ol’ place), and I was reminded of advice my student Yoshiko gave me:  “Do not do your walk [of the tokaido] during the hottest months or the rainy months.”  It seems there’s about a month’s window of ideal weather; the rest of the year is very hot or very wet in much of Japan, and the heat during the summer is attended by the sort of mugginess we found at Penn State.  It’s draining.  Now I was carrying only a day’s worth of “stuff” on my back (I had my eye on a nifty new day pack at REI, but I settled on an old Easton that is comfortable if a bit funky).  The pack was heavier than normal because the weight of the heat was pressing down on me the whole time.  I thought of Booth’s description of Saigo’s being carted around in a palanquin during his retreat from the imperial forces, but there were no tourist bearers in the land of the Nittany Lion.

So I had two thoughts:  I really need to toughen up to warm weather hiking (chances are my schedule won’t allow me to hike during the one perfect month), and I need to think about packs.  I looked at the Osprey Aether 60 Pack that Matthew (WalkingFool) took on his last major walk, and it looks roomy, sturdy, light.  But there is also something like this award-winning (for being “green,” not necessarily for function) ultralight pack:

  GoLite Jam Pack

I’m curious what the pack-wearers among you think of this and/or other options.

To add to my sense that I need to keep getting into better and better shape there were the four planes (two REAL planes and two miniature flying horrors) we took in two days. Whatever wasn’t sore from walking was certainly sore after having been wedged into economy crunch for the better part of two days. When we go back in August to take Michelle to school for real, I think we are driving.


Savoring Booth

I’m reading the last little bits of Alan Booth’s Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan.  The final section has him walking from Nagoya to Taira, and there are nuggets of delightful Japanese–words I’ll likely never get a chance to use, but I’m writing them down in a little notebook.  Just a couple of chapters from the end, he visits a preserved five-story gasshozukuri (“built like hands folded in prayer”) style house in the steep hills near Gokoyama (“Five Mountains”).  The roof is steeply pitched to shed the heavy winter snows, and the building is tall because there is little arable land; this housed several generations at once.

Sitting in the dark-beamed living area on the ground floor Booth notes an in-English pamphlet that says, “the house is so spacious and dimly lighted inside that it is not fit for our modern way of living.” It is only fit to remind us of what “the real Japan” was like once upon a time and to provide visitors with an opportunity to go “oooh” and “ahhh” and “natsukashii” (“that brings back memories”).

I”m not sure I will ever use words such as natsukashii or O-nyanko (“meow-meow girls), but shizuka na yado (“quiet inn”) seems practical.

I”m sad to be reaching the end of the book.  Booth died young; his body of work (at least what is readily available) is small.  But he’s packed human interest, humor, travalogue, insight, history into this small body.  And just maybe his sharing words popular at the Ava Odori Festival in Takoshima could become a mantra:

“The fool who watches the fool who dances is a big fool, so he might as well dance.”


Graduation, minutia, learning Japan

Yes, that’s “learning Japan” not “learning Japanese,” but first, Michelle has graduated and spent a fun/tiring Grad Nite [sic] at Disneyland.

The graduation allowed me to get a start on one of my favorite planning things:  considering minutia and buying toys!  We’ve had a couple of point-and-shoot digital cameras over the past few years.  I’ve only had film cameras, though I did downsize several years ago from my SLRs (Pentax and Nikon) to a hand-sized Olympus–great for traveling.  For some reason the digitals the family has gotten both died in Australia.  I suspect the reverse Coriolis Effect.  Any way, we needed something to take pictures of the graduation, and I wanted to get a small camera for the walking tour(s), so I started reading reviews.  The Canon PhotoShot 1300 SI and 1400 SI ranked tops for inexpensive point and shoots.  The 1400, a bit more expensive, has the edge in size/weight (by 2 ounces), and it has some enhanced video features; the 1300 is a little less expensive and has stronger still picture capabilities.  I’m planning on taking mainly still photos, so I opted for the 1300.  Naturally, Best Buy and Target stopped carrying the 1300 and are pushing the 1400, so I had to go to Audio/Video and pay a bit more (about the same as the 1400).  It’s light blue/silver and fun.

Next I’ll shop for a rucksack (day pack) which I can use for the upcoming trip to Penn State University (lovely campus to hike around) in a couple of weeks.  All recommendations are welcome.  I’ve actually gotten a few, but as with cameras, new products appear every season.  So I guess it’s most important I get thoughts on pockets, weight, straps, material and so on.

Then, as I sometimes walk on the treadmill (a sad substitute for walking along the beach, but conditioning is conditioning), I’ve dug out an old boom box and am listening to a book-on-tape version of Stephen King’s Under The Dome (2009, though I’d never heard of it before).

And I really need to start learning Japanese in earnest.  Even pulling out my Nintendo DS Japan Tutor would help.  I find I’m enamored of interesting words and phrases, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to work “O-nyanko” (meow-meow girls) into a lot of conversations.  A side of learning Japanese and reading about Booth and Carey and others hiking through Japan is that I’m learning a lot about Japan, about its history, from the defeat of the Heike at the Battle of Dan-no-ura to Saigo Takamori’s retreat and the Meiji Restoration.