all alone again

The season is finally over. That is to say, everyone has finally left me.

Having Tim and Brandi here was a fun time. We covered quite a bit of ground. Actually, no... we covered about a months worth of ground in the two weeks they were here. We were busy the entire time. For me it was awesome, because I like running around like crazy. Which is actually a bit strange. I never considered my traveling style particularly frenetic, but when I look at how much ground we covered I have to wonder. Am I one of those crazy tourists who doesn't actually enjoy any of the sites and just goes for the picture? If I was, wouldn't I have a lot more pictures? In any case, I had a good time. And I guess that's what it's really about. I think it's really that when I'm on a time limited schedule I want to do a lot. Living in a country makes it easy to take things in slowly, but touristing puts you into a constrained block that my schedule-dependent tendencies desire to fill.

In any case, we did a nice loop around central/south Japan; all by car. I think that many ALTs in Japan miss a huge opportunity not traveling by car. It's true that the expressways are incredibly expensive, but even when you add that to the price of gas you're still saving quite a bit of money if you've got even just 3 people. It's true, you're not saving time when compared to the Shinkansen, but you do have the option of pulling off and playing frisbee in the park. It's a nice way to travel with friends.

There are too many stories to tell, but I'll do my best.

***
We climbed Mt. Fuji the 5th day after they got here. Ethan came up from Okayama and we were in high-spirits as we pulled up to the mountain around 10:30pm. While it is the more difficult course to climb all night, we were confident we could do it with no problems. I think we might have been able to... if it hadn't been raining. It started off fairly nice, but quickly moved into a fairly miserable drizzle. The one advantage to this arrangement was that the long string of mountain-hut lights stretching up the mountain was largely hidden from us. Looking up the mountain at the rare times the clouds cleared was depressing, and coming back down the next day revealed exactly how high and depressing looking the mountain was. Starting at night is the way to go, you don't realize how totally screwed you are.

Fuji was difficult, much more difficult than I thought it would be. Prior to going we often used the misnomer 'hiking' to describe the ascent. Mt. Fuji is not a hike. It's a climb, and it's long. Still, seeing the sunrise at whatever elevation (we didn't hit the summit before sunrise, sadly) was amazing. Really quite beautiful, and definitely made the grueling climb worth it.

***
Nara is famous for two things: deer and a giant Buddha. The giant Buddha was really big. The deer wander free through the park, growing fat on the deer-crackers people feed them. The deer were far more entertaining. Actually, no: the people who came to see the deer were entertaining. Everyone went through the same set of reactions. First there was excitement: "Oh!! Deer! And they're not afraid of people! Let's feed them!". They'd then invest 150 yen in some deer crackers, and head in the direction of the deer. The deer would take notice, and start heading excitedly towards the deer-cracker toting individual. Crackers would be fed to the deer, but then chaos would break out. Deer would bite hands, butts or grab clothing trying to get at the delicious deer crackers. Panic would ensue, and the deer-feeder would try and restore order by yelling at the deer. "Hey! Those aren't for you!" The deer would continue their bad behavior, until the feeder would in fear or frustration toss the crackers away and run for their lives. This flow cut across age, class and nationality.

It was hilarious.

After Tim and Brandi experienced this first-hand, we sat back and watched for awhile as other dupes fell into the same trap. Those deer have a sweet deal and rewarded bad behavior. They're so spoiled it's awesome.

***

Saying good-bye's while enjoying time with Tim and Brandi was difficult, but at the same time, perhaps, easier. Distracting at the very least. Now that they're gone, I have a few days to stew. Actually, just 2. The day after tomorrow is the first day of Gunma orientation for all the new ALTs. That means I get to meet some new friends. Let's hope they're at least half as cool as the ones I made this year.