Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shinjuku Joso and Tsukuba

After the wedding ceremony I met another friend who took me to Shinjuku in Tokyo. I didn't have confidence navigating a single station let alone the Tokyo train system, so I was very glad of his help. We went to Shinjuku to meet maybe 12 people and we had Vietnamese food together for dinner. It was fun to see so many people together that I hadn't seen in a long time. It was also one of their birthdays so it became a real celebration with cake and candles and some of her friends brought her presents. I had to leave a little earlier than some others because I was going with another friend to stay at her house in another prefecture. I am now in Ibaraki, 25 minutes from Moriya station in a city called Joso city. My friend lives amid rice fields and vegetable gardens. There are so many windows in her house I can see so much green. Her family has been so kind, and her mother has prepared very delicious food. Each meal seems to be a feast! Her father speaks English well, and her mother and I can say some words to each other.

Yesterday I went to Tsukuba, the science capital of Japan. I met some friends that I haven't seen since 1999. It was fun to be there as tourists together. They live around Tsukuba but didn't spend so much time exploring the science center there. We went to eat okonomiyaki together and then went to the science center. We got lost a few times on the way there, but luckily there was a big rocket in front of the building, so we could find our way.

Inside the center I talked to some of the people who were answering kids science questions and demonstrating some different concepts. I am always looking for new teaching ideas and demos, and I think I found some that I will have to try. I was able to communicate using physics equations and pictures and the names of scientitst who discovered different principles. The demonstrator man was having fun trying to explain to me, and my friends had never really thought about what he was saying so they were really surprised that I knew about that, and could understand how the demonstrations worked even without any Japanese language comprehension. Science might be a universal language. There were many games and activities to try, much like the Toronto science center. There was also a planetarium that we went to. It was the first time I have seen something like that. The screen was a big dome, and the seats reclined so we could see the "sky". It was probably more stars than most people can see in Japan. I've been lucky to see stars from Algoquin Park and other places where it is really really dark. Anyway, they explained about some constellations and showed pictures which helped me understand. Also they explained the history of the telescope and how different telescopes work, and how light travels so fast, and how we measure in light years, and how big the universe is-all the grade 9 science stuff. My friend's didn't know that kind of vocabulary in English, so they had a hard time translating. I think though that there were about 3 minutes where I could understand exactly what was being said. The rest of it I understood maybe 50%.

Last night we watched the election results on TV. I don't know much about Japanese politics but my friend's dad said that one political party has been in power for the last 60 years, since the second world war. I think that changed last night. He was talking about a political revolution.

Today we will go to Asakusa in Tokyo, and maybe also to see the Imperial Palace gardens. It is "chilly" here today and windy too-it is probably 25C. I'm quite comfortable finally. I think it cooled down after the huge thunderstorm we had last night.

so far I am doing very well. I have not experienced jet-lag at all. Yesterday I had a sore throat that evolved to a runny nose and some sneezing, but it is changing quickly and I'm drinking lots of water/orange juice and sleeping at 10:00 at night, so I think it's not going to slow me down. I probably caught this cold from all of the recycled air on the plane.

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