Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend shenanigans

Well it certainly has been an entertaining weekend. I got my bike fixed up with the help of Yoshiko on Saturday morning and it now rides like a dream. Amazing what a little oil and a few adjustments can do! The rain held off in the west end of the city and the BBQ was a smashing success on Sunday. I bought some disposable charcoal grills at Trial for 269Yen and they worked out quite well!

I whipped up my World Famous (or at least Utsunomiya famous) Taco salad, and Yoshiko and I made up some beef, onion, mushroom and pepper skewers to grill which turned out quite nicely. Matt made up an Indian style carrot salad and some lovely marinated chicken breasts while Stacy brought some tasty melon and steaks. Mmmmmmm! All went well and the logistics of it were quite simple. We were 5 people up there and it went off rather smoothly, I may attempt a slightly larger event later this summer or in the Fall. Maybe invite some of our gracious students who have invited us into their homes so many times before. Matt and I made a dent (finally) in the bottle of Southern Comfort I'd bought at a year ago, and introduced our friends to Amaretto as well.

There was one slightly creepy occurrence at the beginning of our BBQ when we spotted a guy across the way looking out at us from a window. I understand three foreigners BBQing on a rooftop terrace is not a common occurrence, so at first we thought he was just curious. But then he didn't go away. Then we thought he was taking pictures of us but he finally crouched down so all we could see was his head and we noticed he was watching us with binoculars. He must have stayed there a good 10-15 minutes! I even went down to get my camera to stare back at him through my telephoto lens, but by the time I got my stuff together he'd disappeared. Too bad, would have made an amusing picture. Maybe we'll be lucky and he'll come back out the next time!

A grande ol' time was had by all, though I will say that Sean was correct and the best steak I've ever had was cooked over a camp fire in the middle of Algonquin Park. I think THE best of the camping steaks had to be when we did the winter camping thing and forgot to bring utensils. We were so tired and hungry from a day of trudging through snow and chopping wood that we devoured the steaks with our bare hands, making for some great pictures.

Today was the more spiritual of the two days with a planned trip to visit our friend\student\monk Saychon-san at his temple for lunch. You'll recall Alex and I visited last November.

Matt and Stacy came along this time and the experience was a slightly different one than what I had experienced. The lunch was fantastic of course, with a great curry and some fish head with a smattering of other dishes. The Thai sausage was the best in my opinion. Here are the three senseis offering one of the things we brought to the monks. These fellers are not allowed to purchase or make any of their own food. Their followers come to the temple twice a day (breakfast and lunch) to prepare food for them. They are also not allowed to accept food directly (hand to hand) from either women or their own followers. Matt and I, as common heathens, were allowed to pass him dishes directly but since Stacy was joining in for this photo op, we needed to place the fruit pie onto the monk's sash. Our student Saychon is the one on the left, with his stoic co-monk off on the right. So basically, these guys are totally dependant on their followers. If nobody comes to prepare something for them, they don't eat. From what I understand (and from the spread of dishes I witnessed today) this is not really a problem.

So far, the experience was the same. Friendly people, interesting conversation about Thai culture and Buddhism, all good. There were a few people visiting from the head temple in Bangkok and they made things quite different from when Alex and I visited alone with Saychon. After our meditation session, of which video clips were taken, they showed us a video about their International Ordination program whereby one goes to Thailand and takes vows as a Buddhist monk. It was interesting to see people from all over the world wanting to study Buddhism more in depth, but when they asked us if we were interested, it felt a bit like a sales push. They didn't insist or anything, but I didn't like the feeling with the head office people there. While I do find this religion fascinating, and believe that meditation is a good way to relieve stress and find peace, I'm not quite ready to hop on a plane, go to Thailand and shave what little hair I have left to become a monk! Kind of odd.... I joked with Matt that this was karmic punishment for the campaigns at AEON... lol

We finally parted ways and said our goodbyes to little Saychon. Tsukuba Steve, you take good care of him when he starts up classes in a couple of months.

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Anonymous S'Mee said...

Just the tiniest of clarifications; on closer inspection of the steak pictures, I see that indeed there were utensils. The problem was that we were so famished, we found the cultured process of actually bothering to cut the steak into pieces far too time consuming. We resorted to the "had to mouth" method purely for reasons of efficiency, and a touch of barbarism. ;-)

12:16 PM  

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