Tuesday, February 05, 2008

ski+hot springs = blissful weekend!

What a weekend! A break I really needed. Even though it wasn't too long ago that I came back from my Christmas-New Year's in Malaysia, some recent events coupled with work have made me feel like I've been working for years already. And in reality, it's not even 6 months yet!

Through a very long elaborate plan twisted and turned, I managed to leave the office early just in time to catch the 5pm bus on Friday to Urasa. It's too complicated that it will bore you, so I shall skip details and show pictures of the wonderful snow in Niigata prefecture.

I had been missing the snow since summer last year. But I missed it more during winter here in Tokyo because the snow that fell, the very little that did, was so miserable that they melted in minutes. I missed the tonnes of snow that pile up, blanket the mountains and cover the rice fields, that make Niigata a winter wonderland.

My uni friends reported that this year round there was more snow than before. But not as high as the previous year when they had about 3m+ of snow! In fact, for the past month or more, it has been snowing quite steadily almost every day that it kinda felt miserable for them. But for those who were in their 2nd year and wanted to make the most out of their final months in grad school, they went skiing and snowboarding almost every weekend. When I hear their stories, I wish I was back in school too!

The trip back was another of catching up with old friends and some newer ones I made from my last trip. Again, I wish I had more time. But Saturday was such bliss. It was really excellent weather, for me at least. This was my first time after a year that I've seen this much snow and it brought back memories of the freezing mornings where I had to drag myself out of bed for the 8am Japanese classes and wondering why I put myself through such torture back then!

Memories and thoughts kept me quite sleepless Friday night and I just wanted to snuggle back into bed the next morning and miss the ski trip I had come for. But the thought of flying down the slopes pushed me out, and so there I was back at Hakkaisan Roku Ski Resort almost exactly 1 year after, for IUJ's Ski Day. It was good seeing familiar faces, and that familiar slope where I had polished my skills tumbled down countless times and tasted snow.

Funny thing was because of all that nostalgia, I was afraid that the span of 1 year would have erased my skills. I felt like a beginner all over again as I tried on my ski suit, put on my ski boots and buckled them up and fitted them into the ski. As I made my way near where some of my expert friends were giving lessons to the beginners, I thought maybe I should humble myself and admit that I have forgotten how to ski and just learn again.

But after going down the little slope about twice, I was getting bored and said to myself, surely this must be like cycling. Once you learn, you can't forget. So with some trepidation, I dragged along another beginner friend with me and took the lift up the mountain. I had not even fully warmed up nor did enough practice runs to be confident that I can go down as I did before. But I came all the way from Tokyo and I wasn't going to be tied down at the learner's slope all day.

As I stood there looking down the slope after the lift had dropped us, I thought, this is it. I was already up here, there's no other way to get down but to ski. So I pushed myself slowly with the pole, and got the hang a bit, and before I knew it, the legs suddenly knew how to bend, the feet knew how to turn and the body knew how to balance itself. The memories came back, I was skiing again. It was such bliss. I already knew how to ski, that was always in me, I just needed to push myself.

Before long, I was up in the intermediate and advance slopes. The mini advance slope probably looked like 45degrees and once was enough to give me the jitters. If it wasn't for my fear of height, I might have gone up again. But the intermediate slope provided more thrills. I had gone through that path before the last year but with much fear. This time I had more fun. If "Wheeeee~~~" wasn't so difficult to say for a long time, that would have been my expression all the way down.

That skip trip was followed by a good dip in the hot springs in nearby Muikamachi town. This was another thing I had sorely missed after coming to Tokyo. There aren't many natural onsens here, and the man-made ones charge exorbitant prices. They're also too far from where I live, so the hassle would have just cancelled out any effects the onsen had. But anyways, the hot springs are such a godsent. This is the best therapy after a long day, after exercise, to release stress and get the blood circulation going. I've mentioned this before, but if there's one thing I could bring back to Malaysia, it would have to be the onsen. Too bad it's too hot and humid back home.

We ended the day with a good meal of healthy nabe, somewhat like a hotpot of steaming soup with meat & vege. I wish every weekend was like this. The only downside was that I woke up with sore muscles the next morning and if this wasn't so expensive and far, I'd really do it every weekend!

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