So here are some highlights of what I've been up to the last month:
At the end of June, my friend from college, Ellen, came to visit me in Sendai. Ellen lived in Japan for about 12 years, went to grad school in Portland which is how we met, and then went off to the Netherlands to teach at an international school there. I always enjoy hanging out with Ellen, since we have so many common interests. She brought me some wonderful Dutch souvenirs, including stroopwaffel cookies and cheese! Good cheese is extremely expensive and hard to find in Japan, so I decided to throw a fondue party and share the goodness.
|Mm, cheese and stroopwaffel... and! Sprinkles for toast!!|
Ellen came to Sendai in order to volunteer in the tsunami-affected areas nearby. On my day off, I joined her in volunteering in Ishinomaki. Ishinomaki is a coastal town that was hit hard by the tsunami and the damage there is still pretty overwhelming. The entire downtown area looks as if it were hit by a bomb, with buildings completely collapsed or barely standing and mud everywhere. It was raining hard the day we went, so we helped out at a photo restoration center. Volunteer organizations have been saving photos and other important personal items, cleaning them up, and placing them in centers for locals to come find.
For the most part I didn't take any photos in Ishinomaki because volunteers are strongly cautioned against "disaster tourism", but here are a couple of the few I did take.
Following Ellen's visit, I went with some friends for an overnight stay at an onsen. Onsen are hot springs, and the one we visited was in a small onsen town called Akiu, about 40 minutes by bus from Sendai. Thanks to the quake, the prices at onsen hotels have been incredibly low lately so we decided to take advantage of that by renting out a big room for our group. We had a great time relaxing in the onsen, playing drinking games in our room and exploring the hotel, which had karaoke booths, an arcade and gift shops. We also took lots of silly photos in our yukata!
The next event was a 4th of July party with my other American friends in Sendai. It was actually a very international group, with lots of people from other countries around the world, so it was more of a 4th of July/Canada Day/Midsummer/etc. Party. We special ordered baby-back ribs from The Meat Guy and had a BBQ down by the Hirose River downtown. After it got dark we lit off some little Japanese fireworks.
|Nothing says "4th of July" like BBQ and beer!|