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Hello everyone. How's things on your side of the planet? Everything'sok here. It's been cloudy, rainy, and "cold" for the past 3 weeks -so I'm thrilled. "Cold" here is somewhere in the mid to low 50's. But actually, it DOES start to feel cold after a while. People here are too used to the heat. Also, there's no such thing as central heating in these homes and schools. In fact, there's not even decent insulation. The temperature of one's office, classroom, or bedroom will invariably be the same temperature as it is outside (possibly colder, since there's no sunlight indoors). Spending a day sitting still in such conditions actually starts to feel a bit chilly after a while. But while everyone here is shivering and whining, I'm enjoying every moment of the discomfort. I know how short lived this is, and the pending summer will be far more difficult to endure.
In other news, I escaped to the mainland again for a long weekend. We went to a little town called Ibuski that is famous for its sand baths. There are natural underground hot springs that heat the beaches from beneath. We went to a sauna where you line up and lay yourself down in a ditch. The workers then cover you from chin to toe with shoveled sand. It's pretty heavy, and really warm - and it looks absolutely ridiculous. It's a field of heads.
Later that evening we barely caught the last ferry to the (live) volcano Sakurajima. We also just barely caught the last bus to the volcano's famous onsen (hot spring bath). You're given a long, thin robe to wear (with nothing else) to enter this big pool of hot spring water along the coast. It was night time, and a bit chilly, so it was nice lounging around there for a while. I attached another internet photo.
Today is Valentine's Day, but I'm off the hook (for now), because only women are obligated to buy anything here. There's another Valentine's Day in March called "White Day". THAT'S the day men are expected to give gifts, so at least I've got some time. It's a little trickier, though, because you might also be expected to give chocolates to certain friends or coworkers, too. Hopefully I'll figure out how to cover all the bases without forgetting too many people or breaking the bank.
Well, that's about it from here, I suppose. Hope all is well. See ya.
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