Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Getting Warmer ... but it's STILL Winter (Monday, February 9, 2009)

This past weekend had to have been one of the greatest all Niigata weekends of the winter.  It all started with having plans, then cancelling those plans for different plans, then those plans being canceled, and then maybe plans turning into AWESOME plans!! 

Becoming friends with Ru and Futoshi, has been like hitting the jackpot.  They live in Niigata city and are so open and welcoming to meeting new people that they’ve accumulated quite an array of friends.  They know the manager of a Niigata pop band, a Ramen Shop owner has them taste test new flavors at their house, bar tenders down the street, and on and on.  Timing doesn’t always work out, but I try to go to as many of the events they invite me to because I know it’s going to be a good time. 

Saturday and Sunday in Niigata City was an event called Shokunojin.  It’s similar to the Taste of Chicago in that prominent restaurants around the area set up tents with their most delicious foods.  Ru and Futoshi warned me not to pay for anything.  They know from past years that if you hang around a tent and talk about how tasty the food looks, the workers are bound to offer up some free samples.  We sampled cake, salmon, Japanese sweets, sake, rice crackers, squid, and much much more.  For dinner and more drinks, we went to The Local, a Kiwi bar, where a pretty big group of JET friends gathered.  It was a great mix of Japanese and English conversation, jokes, and good times.  Ru, Futoshi, and I skipped out on karaoke so that we could get back to their apartment at a decent hour and get up early to go to Myoko’s Suginohara Slopes!!  (well, Ru and I … Futoshi had to work)

Aya-sensei and I have been trying to find a time to go snowboarding for quite some time now.  Since she’s a teacher and I’m doing the musical thing, it’s been difficult to find a good weekend until THIS weekend!!  She BRILLIANTLY suggested Myoko City’s Suginohara, a place 2 hours south of the city with a 8.5 km (5.28 mile) long run!!!!!!!  Aya-sensei picked Ru and I up, we drove a bit south on the expressway, and picked Aya-sensei’s friend, Hiromi up ON the expressway!!  Our area’s snow has mostly melted, but the further south and into the mountains we went, the more snow on the roads appeared.  Suginohara has got to be one of my favorite ski parks so far.  You have to take your gear off, and get into a moving gondola in order to get all the way to the top.  The run feels like it’ll never end and I couldn’t help but smile the whole way down!! 

To split the journey from the south of Myoko to the north of Murakami up a bit, I had another delicious dinner at the Aoki’s (Ru and Futoshi): salmon, vegetables, and potatoes.  MMmmmmmmmm J

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