05 June 2010

Hakone! and Filipino Food

As mentioned today's trip was to start at 9am sharp, or else they can leave without you.  So that meant the latest I should leave home is 8:30am.  Thank God I woke up to my alarm at around 7:15am, and was ready to go at a little past 8:00am.

So I decided to go with the other PhD students who are going there by bike.  Yikes!  After Friday's intense basketball (it was a total of 45 points, not 40 as I previously mentioned) game, I regret having to do this, except for the sort of bonding with the other students.  Anyways, as mentioned before, going to Hon-Atsugi station from TPU or my apartment is not a problem because it is downhill.  Going back was the problem - you're tired from whatever you did and then it is uphill.  Of course we just walk the bike, but still it's more effort.

The good news though is, I saved 260 pesos (around $5.20) today by riding the bike, for a 4 km (3 mile) total round trip journey.  Yay!

Anyways, we got to the meeting place at 8:40am - better early than late, of course.  And then the organizers told us that we were leaving at 9:30am because they had to wait for someone.  What?  I thought the idea was to leave at 9:00am sharp and that we won't wait for latecomers?  Oh well.  Not everyone is on time; nope, not in Japan.

Actually because we left late we had very little time to go around by ourselves around Hakone later during our "free time."

We got there around 10:30am and the first activity was doing this traditional "wood curving" (that's what it said on our invitation letter - not "wood carving" and not pottery as I said in an earlier blog post)...  Actually the more appropriate term is wood mosaic pattern making, I think called YosegiZaiku.  So we have these different colored wood tiles, from different types of wood, and they are either diamond-shaped or triangular (each being one-half of the diamond-shaped ones), and then you make a pattern, for beginners it's usually to make a coaster (one you put your beer mug on) or something.  Interesting.   Then once you've decided on your pattern, you glue your tiles together and then clean it up with wet tissues and sandpaper and voila.  For more advanced wood mosaic pattern makers, or whatever they're called, they make box decorations and stuff.  Check this out: http://ginkgraph.net/articles/products/hakone-yosegi-zaiku.html.  The boxes themselves are way too expensive (like many things here).  The cheapest, smallest one would be more than 2000 yen ($20, PhP 1000).

Anyways, right after that was barbecue lunch!  Basically there's this big basket of food - veggies and meat - and we were to cook them on the hot plate.  It is practically like fried, more than grilled - we used oil a lot.  But basically we all ate a lot.  Two or three in our group do not eat beef, so they only ate the lamb and shrimp (probably there was just one shrimp per person), and then one doesn't eat pork.  And so I had lots of beef and pork.  Ehehehe.  And veggies, of course.  There was pumpkin, eggplant, and lots and lots of cabbage.  There was also soba - by "barbecuing" it, of course it became yakisoba.  Yum.  There was one palmful of rice for each of us, but it didn't matter. :-D

Anyways, right after lunch, we all went outside and noticed there were stilts which many of tried to maneuver but it was more difficult than it looked!  Then after that at around 2:05pm there was this part called "Communication class."  And, well within our own groups, we tried to practice communication.  YUP.  One of the organizers warned us saying something like, "We will have this communication class because the Japanese are not very good at communicating their opinion, so if you have something bad to say don't say it." So...  Anyways, it would be great if we were mixed with the other groups.  Anyways, our group were the only graduate students.  The rest are freshmen college students.  Half of them are Chinese and half of them are Korean.  There was this one guy from Malaysia and I think at least one girl from Taiwan, but the guy is Chinese-Malaysian and they both speak Mandarin as well.  Other nationalities there include 1 Filipino/me, 2 Indians, 1 Bangladeshi/Bengal, and 1 Italian - all from our group.

Anyways, the first activity was talking more about our own names.  Well, okay, it was interesting to hear of the other guys' names' origin.  Of course I told them "Aquino" is a Spanish word, which I think means "hero," and that it is quite common in the Philippines - we now have 2 presidents with the same name.

The second activity was to pick 3 letters from our names, and then write some phrases which could be good advice for maintaining good interpersonal relationships.  One local suggested "Wake up early everyday."  Yup, that is very important for good relationships.  Wake up early.

And then next activity was bouncing a newspaper (crumpled) ball on a newspaper "net" which we control ourselves.  Very fun.  Yup, very very fun.  Anyways, we had very little time to go around Lake Ashi (or Ashinoko).  We were near the northern tip and, well the lake is huge and we were not able to explore much of it.  Actually to do that, it would be nice to take a boat ride or this duck-shaped, pedal-driven gondola.

By the way, the official title of the trip is "2010 Foreign Students cultural exchange workshop."

Anyways, I think we got back to Hon-Atsugi around 6pm.  We got our bikes and made a pit stop at Atsugi Trellis.  I bought me a "wok pan" - sort of an in-between a wok and a frying pan.  Worked well for me.

I got home maybe around 7pm.  And started boiling the pork at around 7:30pm.  I finished cooking at 10:30pm.  "It took that long????" you might ask.  Yup, it took that long to cook 4 dishes.

I made Nilagang Baboy, Postek Tagalog (hehe, I just invented that word for Pork Steak, to parallel with Bistek Tagalog for Beef Steak), Picadillo, and Taplog (Tapa and Itlog - no sinangag).  I also cooked rice, of course.  Anyways, I was so full from the tabehodai (eat-all-you-can) barbecue lunch, I wasn't yet so hungry until I finished cooking.  I just had one small pizza (frozen) for dinner.  After cleaning up, I slept right away.  I didn't pass by the school at all this day.  I was so dead tired, and my knee is feeling it the most.

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