Archive for ‘Higashikawa’

12 February 2019

I’m not into Valentine’s, but…

by misslampa

20190209_152924Skies were overcast and it was snowing last Saturday here in the lovely hipster town of Higashikawa, but I geared up, headed out, and went cross-country skiing anyway.

It’s not that I’ve fallen in love with the sport, but classic クロカン (read as kurokan and short for “cross-country”) skiing is beginning to have the same effect that running had on me when I took it up about seven years ago. You step forward with your left foot and then with your right and then again with your left and soon enough, your head is clear and that immediate next step is all you think about. I’m not there yet, but I imagine cross-country skiing will have a similar meditative lightness to it.

I’ll also be joining my first cross-country skiing race in less than a month, and I have every intention to progress from waddling to sliding before then. Because given that I signed up for the shortest course (only 1km long!) and will be skiing with babies and toddlers and their parents mostly, my motivation to become better is fueled by this burning desire to not fall and squish little people come race day.

I guess I was too focused on that while I was out skiing because I was already back in the parking lot when I realized it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and all I have for company are my skis and all this vastness around me.


That thought stayed with me during the drive home, and I remembered what my best friend suggested I tell people when they pry into my (lack of a) love life: that skiing keeps me busy.

It can be your alibi, he told me in jest.

This, after he also just reminded me to be more open to romantic love instead of saying no to possibilities even before exploring them. Several chat lines after, being in love has suddenly turned into a crime but thanks to cross-country skiing, I can enter a plea of not guilty?

It amused me, his not-so-subtle use of reverse psychology. So I smiled while insisting I didn’t want an alibi because this time, I’d rather find and be found.

I wanted to listen to Jollibee and have faith in love, I said.

It was cheesy and all, but he was kind enough to laugh. And then we ran out of things to say, so we just left it at that.

27 January 2019

Waddling in Winter Wonderland

by misslampa

I tried cross-country skiing for the first time last Wednesday. And by that, what I mean is I managed to waddle back and forth on the school playground in my skis without falling…while kids up to thirty years my junior had a terrific time taking on the short and long groomed trails around me.

It was more my overly judicious use of ski poles than my good sense of balance that kept me upright, truth be told. But I was more on my butt than on my feet the one time I tried downhill skiing, so I’m still going to say this is a clear win for me.

Winter play

Prior to “ski-waddling,” this was my idea of winter fun.

We only had a little over two hours and I wanted to let the kids go first so as to stay out of their way, so all I’ve really done is go from walking with the help of ski poles to waddling without. Which isn’t really much, if you think about it. But whatever little progress I made sent me over the moon.

A slight spring in every small, slippery step – quite literally.

And when the bell rang to signal the end of PE class, the doors to the school entrance couldn’t look any less inviting.

I felt my sun-kissed spirit detach from the rest of me so it could do a double take. Am I warming up to winter, finally?

Maybe. Or maybe any day now, the world will go Bazinga! on me.

Until then, I’ll tell myself to just keep waddling.

1 July 2018

The Aunt who Glitters Learns to Love Spring

by misslampa

At the Bureau of Education here in Higashikawa and even in the schools I teach at, I’m probably best known as she who could not wait for winter in Hokkaido to be over.

Because for all its beauty, winter can and does zap your genki.

2018 Winter Doraemon

Even Doraemon doesn’t seem so crazy about it, see?


Or turn pedestrian crossings and sidewalks into skating rinks that make you fall on your butt.



How about we just slide to work today?




It’s pretty and all, but only if you don’t have to go outside.

But mostly, I’m not a fan because it gets freezing cold up here. The temperature outside ranges from -12 to -22˚C during wintertime in northern Hokkaido, and since I come from the Philippines where the average in Manila hovers just above 30˚C for most of the year, it really wasn’t a surprise that the cold got to me. Back home, we turn on the air conditioner to keep a room cool – and by that, I mean 21˚C. Positive.

People were amused when I started wearing scarves once the temperature dipped to low 20s. And then genuinely worried when I transitioned to thick down coats in November, when everyone else began using their scarves. (To be honest, I was worried about me, too.)

But when my kind boss told me in mid-May that I must be happy to be welcoming my favorite season, it was my turn to be amused. Because although I am not big on winter, I don’t ever remember referring to spring as the most wonderful time of the year. My thing is fall and its vibrant reds and yellows and oranges, and hearing the colorful carpet of leaves crunch under my feet. But I digress.


(Still digressing, sorry, but look at how pretty this tree in my town is in autumn!)



Truth be told, the main reason why I was looking forward to spring was because it marked the end of winter, which lasted for Seven Painfully Long Months this year. The spring flowers are a nice bonus, but I’m not really a flower person, either.

Well, I wasn’t. Until I am.

You see, one thing I didn’t see coming was how the park and the playground would once again be filled with children playing and coming up to say hi. Months of ice and snow that kept kids either indoors or on the ski slopes seem to have made me forget.

But the sweetest of the 3- to 5-year-olds compel you to remember. I pass by the pre-school playground on my way back from teaching an after-school English club and every week, without fail, they run up to me and ask to do a fist bump a la Baymax and won’t leave until we get to the fa-la-la-la-la bit. (My colleague and I taught them that, haha!) Or do a high-five but take my hand in theirs the moment our palms touch and just keep it that way just so I’m theirs for a while longer. Or hold my face in their hands and call me Oba Kira, which Google translates to “Aunt Glitter.” which is one nickname you won’t hear me complaining about because hey, it’s kawaii.

I am fully aware that those hands have been in places unspeakable before they were on my face, of course, but I try not to think about that.

It takes me a while to go through this routine with the kids, which isn’t really new since I did this back in autumn, too. But it’s springtime in Higashikawa now, so guess what the cute little munchkins scramble to give me right before I leave?

spring 2018 flowers

Some of this season’s super tiny flower bouquets, made up of flowers from whichever weed was closest to them when I start saying goodbye.


What an adorably cute way to be reminded of how simple and straightforward it really is to let someone know you like them back when the world has yet to train your heart to be afraid and hold back.

So from now on, yep, flowers are a thing for the aunt who glitters, too.