Sunday, December 21, 2008

17 Weeks!

Pregers Update!

She is starting to burst at the seems! (Actually she is not showing that bad yet. We account it to her height.)

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Going into the 17th week the baby is doing great. We got to hear Dynamite's heartbeat for the first time today. It was amazingly fast but the doctor said it sounded strong and healthy.

Risa is now at the point where she can't fit into any of her old clothes and we had to do a little more maternity shopping this past weekend. I suggested to save money we just get a few muu-muus but she wasn't into that.

Just in time for the holidays our Christmas Cactus (Denmark Cactus) is starting to bloom. For the longest time we thought it was never going to bloom again, and like clockwork it opens right before Xmas day!

Here is Ris at our Christmas corner. Complete with a Festivus Pole!

For the rest of us, Happy Festivus!!

This is what we woke up to this morning. It is supposed to continue falling the rest of the week!

Oh, and btw.

We were officially married December 5th, 2008. The same day Risa's sister, mother, and grandmother were married! The actual marriage was very simple. Signed a few papers and handed over some cash. It was kind of a strange feeling when we were completely finished...the guy actually said "Thank you for all your hard work" at the end. Not "Congratulation" or anything. It felt like we just helped the guy shovel the walk or something!

But we are now officially Mr. and Mrs. Couch. Risa is already getting strange looks when she uses her full name, Risa Couch. A very foreign sounding name here. Yep, we're rockin' the boat here in Kuroishi!

It's been a long time coming and we are not even half way!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Week 9

We have had our second doctor's visit and everything is looking good!

Here is the latest ultrasound of Thunderstruck "Dynamite" Couch.

The two white crosses are his/her measurement. A healthy 22mm!

The doctors at Kuroishi hospital reminded us that they do not use any pain killers during birth. Risa was a little concerned since we would like to have a natural birth.

I reassured her that it couldn't be any worse than this:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Father To Be

October 6th, 2008 will be a day to remember! For everyone! For it is the day that Shamalama was told that he will be a father!

This is the first recorded picture of the soon to be famous

(Name pending.)

First grandson/daughter, first nephew/niece (sex also pending atm), first red-headed Japanese!

For anyone who has forgotten to breath due to the shock of me becoming a father...

"Deep breath, there ya go, now through your noes, aaahhh, that's better..."

Risa is now in her 8th week and we will know the exact due date by next doctor visit. Looking at a few charts the date should be around the end of May, beginning of June.

Oh, and since my choice of name will probably be shot down any suggestions are appreciated!

I will leave you with a couple pictures my grandmother sent me recently of two little devils some of you might recognize.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kuroishi Neputa Fesitval '08

It's summer in Japan again and the festivals have started! On a side note I have been living here in Aomori for one year. Time really knows how to fly! Just one year ago I made my first post here and included a short video of the Neputa festival in Aomori City. Unfortunately we weren't able to get up to Aomori City to see the big festival so I instead watched the local one here in Kuroishi.

Almost every town in this area has it's own small version of Neputa. Each district within a city participates with their own home made floats. I noticed that some floats were pretty large and extravagant!

Such as this one:

But there was also room for the smaller ones too:

The kids were pretty much all my students. I almost interrupted the whole procession when I waved and they tried to wave back while maintaining their drumming.

Some more of my students.

David and I were lucky enough to see the process of making these floats and helped a little on one. They are pretty much just wire mesh with thick paper glued on. The crescent shaped ones usually have a hydraulic lift underneath them. They will stop every once in a while and spin and lift for a roaring applause by the crowd. The larger more elaborate ones with demons and warriors are usually spun by human power.

I'll pull my darn float ya punks!

This is a great photo of a group of high school kids. Nothing like giant drums to get the fun started!

Usually the front of the crescent shaped floats contain a battle scene, while the back usually has something similar to this:

They females portrayed in the paintings are never very inviting...usually armed, and sometimes more snake-like than womanly.

Speaking of womanly...

I guess no parade is complete without a cross dresser.

The festival usually continues for five days straight with processions every night and a final one the morning of the last day. They always happen the first week of August and are unique to this area. Next week is the dance festival, Yosare. I will try to get some more photos of that and post it up. Risa and I will be in Hokkaido but we will be back just in time to catch the final night. Summer truly is an exciting time in Japan!

I will leave you with Obi-wan Neputa Jedi! Check out those sandals!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Wedding

Finally getting a post up about my trip back to Missoula to attend (groomsman!!) my good friends Jonathan and Ayumi's wedding. It was a crazy fast four days back in Missoula. I managed to see almost everyone at least once (Even got Sam to come out of his hovel and visit!) and met a few old faces randomly around town whilst shopping for Uhmerican goods that I can't get here in Japanland.

The wedding was held up in beautiful Seeley Lake, Montana. A perfect wedding in my book, simple and not too flashy. Although I didn't plan it so simple might be a huge understatement.

Here are our beautiful bridesmaids.

And our Resavoir Dogs Groomsmen.

Only one knocked up braidsmaid... It was a non-traditional wedding.

The honorary 5th Groomsman. He was a wild one, too wild even for the main ceremony.

There was only one man who could control the 5th Groomsman, Smatt "Pugman" Read

The paparazzi was there taking over 1200 pictures. (Mostly of people's chins and feet.)

A burden light as a feather, right Jonathan?

"and Jonathan, do you vow to always share your plate...."

Their love is bright as the sun. (Sam kept doing "The Randal" we tried to stop him, but he seemed to enjoy it so much we left him to it.)

This is a great photo of the partner switch. (Jonathan watch those hands! That's my mother!)

I am very glad to have been able to see this wedding. It was well worth the trip back and forth. I know there are hundreds of more pictures out there. There was a lot of shenanigans and goings on that I wasn't able to capture (mostly because I was part of them) so maybe once Jonathan gets those all collected we can get a full album posted.

River Fishing in Japan

It was a beautiful day this past Sunday here in Kuroishi. Risa and I were bored out of our skulls so we decided to take a drive up river and see if we could find a place to fish and relax. I had fished a little while living in Yamagata but for the most part never caught anything. It seems the rivers are pretty void of fish which may or may not have anything to do with the constant draining of them for rice fields, rerouting them with concrete which seems to demand the driving of backhoes right through the riverbed, or the old guys down there everyday with nets scooping out large numbers of tiny fish.

Anyhoo, the catching of actual fish is just a small percentage of fishing, right? We loaded up some snacks and beer, bought some overpriced tackle at the local fish shop, and started our drive up towards Lake Towada.

The river along this route is very beautiful but also very difficult to access. We were lucky enough to find a small turn off that ended in a small parking area. We had stopped a few places before we found this one but were unsuccessful in finding a path down to the river. The underbrush here in Japan is very thick and hard to navigate. I really don't know what kind of plants to avoid or what kind of critters to expect here so I figured we wouldn't risk it. (In fact later that day we were harassed by this humongous bee which turns out has a fatal sting!)

She had casting down to an art by late afternoon!

After three hours of casting and not a single nibble I decided to try different bait.

Still not hits but you have to remember these are very small fish and my bait might have been a little large. (By the way, I forgot any sort of swimwear in case you aren't catching on here.)

There were hundreds of these guys down there with us.

No fish but a beautiful Sunday. Next time we will try up river a little further and maybe even try out Lake Towada. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering. We asked the fishing shop owner if we needed licenses and he responded, yeah, kind of, but nobody really cares and no one ever checks you...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ten Yen Booty!

This morning I found a ten yen coin stuck to Risa's butt cheek. She had slept all night with it stuck there.

It is very hot and humid here in Japan and you tend to get very sticky.

That is all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Parents Visit Japan '08

There have been two major events in the last...well, three months that both rightly deserve their own posts. My parents trip to visit us here in Japan and my crazy fast trip back home for the union of two very close friends of mine. Since my parents visited back in April/May chronologically speaking their post will come first. In a undetermined about of time I will follow up with my adventures back in Missoula. Hopefully by then I will have more pictures to share. Being a groomsman I could only shoot a limited amount of pictures at the wedding.

Back in April, 2008 my parents came to visit Risa and I in Kuroishi. We traveled around Aomori prefecture visiting onsens, temples, and giant Bhuddas!

My parents were lucky enough to have landed just at the end of the cherry blossom season. We have tons of photos of cherry blossoms. I think by the end of their stay we were all pretty tired of pink flowers.

Next stop sake! There is a traditional sake brewing house on the main street of Kuroishi. I think they regret offering The Couch/Alexander crew a free taste testing. We managed to try every flavor twice I think. We also got a free tour of their garden behind the brewery. A very traditional Japanese garden complete with 700 year old trees and Buddha statues. (I will have to sort through my photos at home and see if I can dig up a good picture of this amazing garden.)

Sake Goggles.

This was on our drive up to the onsen. We stopped at a bridge to snap a few pics and Dad almost lost his favorite hat!

Here is the entry to the onsen. It claims to be able to fit 1000 people into the bath at the same time. It's a mixed bath house (both sexes can get in!) but it was kind of a let down. They have the baths divided so I couldn't even sit with my girl without being harassed by an attendant. Not to mention all the Japanese guys who would ogle the ladies side without even trying to make it conspicuous.

She just had to have ice cream.

Where are we again?

Next was an amazing temple at the base of Mt. Iwaki. A huge volcano that dominates this whole region of japan. It really looks like Mt. Fuji sometimes in late spring! We are pretty far from it at our house so it's hard to get a good picture of it.

One of my favorite pictures. I liked it so much that I had to have a little fun.

And my favorite!

This is all that is left of Hirosaki Castle. We took a lot of cherry blossom photos here but most are from my Dad's camera.

We had a lot of luck encounters on this trip. There are two major festivals in this region throughout the year but we didn't time either of them for the trip. Instead, I heard about this festival that was a miniature presentation (practice maybe) of the big festivals combined into one parade. My supervisor took us to it in Hirosaki and then treated us to munchies and beer at a local bar.

This is the largest outdoor Buddha statue in Japan. It stands at something like 25 meters tall. It's located kind of out in the middle of nowhere in Aomori and when we visited we saw maybe three other visitors. This was during a popular vacation period too!

If you look closely you can see a very rare Red Tipped Trout spawning upstream!

The sushi chef told my mom if she could drink a pint in 10 seconds it would be free. Boy did he learn his lesson!

The donckey rider! Boy did that last a long time. Right up there with Snarezzercise!

Even with his newly purchased Oji-san hat (old dude hat) my Dad still placed second in the "Funny Hat Contest'! This was up at Lake Towada. A huge crater lake resort where we stayed one night at a hostel. It was a busy weekend and in customary Seamus fashion I didn't try to make reservations at a real hotel until a few days before. Above the lake we explored the Oirase Gorge. It was a beautiful walk with many great waterfalls to view.

We strive to impress.

Since we took over 2000 pictures between us all I better stop here. I need to go through all the pictures because I know there are some real gems in there. Maybe a follow up post with the best of the best photos will come later.