Jen’s Visit: Part One

Though we only live about 4 hours away from each other, Jen and I never visit each other as frequently as we would like to.  It’s not that it’s that hard to get to the other’s prefecture, but we both have taken on extra work duties.  She’s a prefectural advisor, which means she has a lot of extra work (and no extra pay).  I’m a block leader and president of the Miyazaki Association of JETs this year (which has been quite interesting as we have some very different personalities working together this year).  As a result, it had been almost a year since I last saw her when I visited Ehime last September.

We had a really great visit, even if it was too short (as always).  Jen arrived on Thursday evening, just in time to come with me to taiko practice.  She was really excited to try it, but I think she didn’t realize how much of an arm workout it is.  While Jen is not a whimp (something I feel she would like me to point out), taiko in an un-airconditioned room gets really tiring, really quickly.  Especially if you’re worn out from a 4 hour trip from a different prefecture.  So after trying for a bit, Jen decided to just relax in the corner and play Pokemon.

After that, we walked back to my apartment, dropped her stuff, and grabbed her dinner from Jolly Pasta.

The next morning, I went for my normal run while she got some much needed and deserved rest.  We were out the door by about 7:30, since we had to get our rental car by 8ish.  Since we were not exactly sure about the kinds of roads we would be driving on during the course of our mini road trip, we had decided to spring for a slightly nicer than normal car.  (Which also happened to be the cheapest car the rental place had available for our desired day.)

The ride to Takachiho was great (and the air conditioner strong).  When we got to the city, we checked out Takachiho Shrine first.   Both of us had brought our nice cameras out to play, so we spent a while just wandering around snapping pictures.

After that we wanted to head to the main tourist attraction in Takachiho: the Takachiho Gorge.  I knew it was close and suggested that it might even be within walking distances.  We soon spotted a sign that confirmed that the Gorge wasn’t too far away.  Jen said she wanted to try walking it.

We quickly realized it was a mistake.  Not only were we walking in the scorching sun.  Not only were we walking a winding downhill path.  Not only did said path have a very sharp decline.  But said winding, sharp, sun-scorched path also managed to have almost no shoulder to it.  Filled with all the blind turns, the whole thing became a thrilling adventure while we debated the merits of walking on one side of the path versus the other.  True, we could see the cars coming if we walked on the side with incoming traffic, but the cars could see us if we walked with the traffic.

After a longer-that-it-should-have-been walk, we made it, safe and unscathed.  We bought our tickets for the boat ride and wandered around a bit (looking for Pokemon, of course).  When it was time for the ride, Jen decided she wanted to try rowing.  As it was her first time, there was a bit of a learning curve, but she got the hand of it really quickly (But not without some really funny close-calls with the waterfalls, rocks, and a few ducks first).  While she figured out rowing, I had nothing to do but take pictures of her making a variety of amusing faces.

We had nagashi-somen (somen noodles that you have to catch as they flow past you on a waterslide) for lunch and then made the hike back to the car.  By the time we collapsed into the car, we were both ready for a long shower and a nap.  The drive back went smoothly and we returned the car to the rental place.  After showers, naps, and an hour in my air-conditioned apartment, we were ready for the next event: dinner with my Japanese family: Tomoko, Akira-san, and Izaki-sensei.

I brought a box of brownie mix with me back from the States with the express purpose of making it for Tomoko, so we decided that night was the best time to use it.  Jen got along with my “family” and they really liked her.  I was so happy.  They were all chatting and friendly like old friends and, despite how tired I was, I couldn’t stop smiling.

One important thing that came to light is that apparently I am not an old woman, but an old man.  I’ll explain.  I often call myself an old woman because I like to get up at 5 and I’m often asleep by 9.  Most nights I cannot physically stay awake much later than that.  However, as we were talking, it came to light that I’m probably more like an old man than an old woman.  I like to stay at home, I’m not very social unless I have to be, and I like to keep to myself.  Apparently, all of these factors together make me an old man.  I don’t think I’ll go around saying that to people, but it was really nice that the whole group of us now have a little inside joke.

It was really nice to have some of the important people in myself together and having fun.  The dinner ended around 9 because, despite my best efforts, my eyes kept closing.  Thankfully, we had been there for almost 4 hours, so it wasn’t like I was cutting our time short.  When we got back to my apartment, Jen and I both crashed pretty early, worn out from the busy day.

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