Date: June 22nd - June 30th
(quick note: Ok so I have blown out a bit when adding the photos. I missed out on 10 so had to add them in last, thus putting them to the end of the set when they should be in the middle. Gomen nasai)
I'm putting it on record that I have never met anyone more excited about their birthday than Lisa Small. Lisa was sending out reminder emails to everyone a good two months in advance of her birthday. These were followed up every couple of weeks, usually with the only intention of reminding us how many days are to go and how excited she is, and we all should be too. In order to celebrate a birthday with such high expectations, I'm talking higher expectations than Kiwi's have of their beloved All blacks, a couple of events were organized.
Firstly, we had an actual birthday day dinner at Farm Restaurant. It is a very sick place outside of Saga city in the middle of nowhere. The place is pretty much a log cabin and the owners, very cool young people, grow all their own vegetables and herbs (legal herbs). The food was amazing, seriously soooo amazing. Everyone was blown away by it and commenting on how it was the best meal they have had since being in Japan. We actually had the place to ourselves as they normally close at 6pm but Tan set it up that they would stay open for just us. Nice one Tan.
The second chapter of Lisa's 23rd Celebration was a road trip to Kumamoto prefecture. We cruised down in two full cars on the Saturday morning. Our first port of call was Mt Aso, an active volcano. We got to drive to the top and check out the crater being all active and shit. It was definitely worth the drive. After we had had our dash at deaths door, don't worry mum, it wasn't that dangerous... I mean, they had some concrete bunkers set up incase she blew! ...haha.. still not sure what the little bunkers will really do... "just cover your face people... that's right... don't step on the molten lava flowing around you..." Brilliant. So yeah, after our dash at deaths door we made our way along some paths for a little walk around past other craters, ridges, and across volcanic rocks and sand. It was all very beautiful if not surreal and slightly un-worldly (if that's a word). Certain places really were very much like I imagine the moon to be.
After all of us had been in the sun too long, didn't know at the time just later that night when heat was radiating from everyone, we made our way down to Farm land for lunch. We hit up an Organic all you can eat Buffet which was very delicious and satisfying. With the troops fed we made our way back to the cars and headed for the hotel in central Kumamoto for a nap.
That night we were lucky to have a local guide show us round to the cool places. A guy Tan knew from UCLA is an ALT in Kumamoto and thankfully knows hits way around the city. Kyle certainly saved us from a night of hitting up crappy restaurants and bars because we don't know where the cool ones are. There really is nothing like a bit of local knowledge to swing the night in your favour. We were treated to an entertaining night. Dinner was devoured by all at a nice Mexican place. For most of us this is the first Mexican food we have had in a year. Oh my good it was good. After stuffing our faces and bellies we hit up some Karaoke. Karen and I performed an amazingly bad rendition of summer loving. Oh, I also had a go at a bit of 'ring of fire' by Johnny Cash. This time I'm putting my poor vocal performance down to my recent cold and cough. I just couldn't hit the notes like I usually can....
Next up was a gaijin friendly bar that we made our way to through pouring rain. It was absolutely pissing down something chronic. Karen and Rumi-chan stole an umbrella from somewhere, only to have it stolen from them, and then have to steal yet another umbrella! Tan used a cardboard box he found, and the rest of us got soaked to the bone. The club was pretty fun, even though it was hip hop to the days. Being a typical Japanese club the dance floor was lined with people standing/sitting around having a drink but not actually dancing, even though it was 2am and peak dancing time. Ten minutes later, and after seeing a group of ten gaijin enter their lair and put their grove on the locals relaxed and quickly filed out onto the dance floor. It was hella funny watching a certain small Japanese woman (Rumi-chan ;-) get sandwiched between Tan and Lisa. Haha... funny night.
After a few hours sleep for all we hit up some brunch at a nice café before all making our way to a book store to browse the English section for an hour. I don't know of a single book store in Saga prefecture that sells books in English, so you can understand all of our excitement when faced with a whole section. With bulging bags and empty wallets we made our way down the street back to the cars before making our way to the Kumamoto Castle, the same one I visited in Golden Week.
This time, the weather was raining on and off, which was a good thing as it meant there were hardly any people there and the temperate was not quite at melting point for a change. The castle was again amazing, but, a bit harder for all to appreciate as we were all so tired from the previous night. Hands down, the coolest thing there was the two ninja's just chilling outside. I decided to be nice and spare their lives, even though I could have easily stabbed them in the heart with a trident. I just didn't want to have to find a safe-house cause I would probably be wanted for murder...
To finish the weekend in style we stopped off in Saga city for dinner at Bishinu, the only Indian restaurant we know of in our prefecture. It was great to finish off a fun weekend with yet another amazing meal.
So that pretty much brings things up to date. So far this week things have been quiet. Schools are in the midst of exams which means things are quite for me. It also means I usually get to have shorter days and spend more with Karen, which is why I enjoy exam weeks so much!!
After two painful days of no football the quarter finals get under way tonight and they're going to be cracker! I really am worried about how we will come post July 9th when the world cup is over... Think I may have to check Karen into a recovery unit somewhere to deal with her withdrawal!