Sunday, October 26, 2008

Colorado Hunting

This hunting thing may be hard for some of you readers to understand - particularly those who only know me from Japan. But it's something I've been accompanying my dad on since I was four years old, and I've only missed two hunting seasons since. This year I came back for three weeks to go along with my dad and his three brothers on a trip to the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado.

I spent the first three days camping out in a remote section of wilderness that I thought might hold big bulls due to its inaccessibility. I was a little wrong, though, as people from the neighboring private property were hunting there.

I hiked back on the third afternoon and at about 4pm - still 3 miles from camp - I heard a bull bugling below the trail. I left him be and the next morning my dad and I went back in for him. He bugled just after dawn, above the trail. We circled in above him, staying downwind, then spread out 200 yards and entered the timber. My dad was in the right position and fell right into the small harem of cows and the bull. He missed his first shot, but hit the bull in the back of the neck on the second - a perfect, instant-death shot.

That day we cleaned out the bull, went back for pack frames, returned to the bull, and packed out his two rear quarters. The next day (Wednesday) I left early and went hunting a mile past my dad's bull while he and his brothers finished the packout job (and a bear had visited the remaining meat during the night). I climbed a huge ridge up to treeline at 11,200 feet amidst falling snow and a falling temperature. I didn't see a track or hear anything. At the top I had to decide whether to hunt to the right or left, so I wandered right to survey the neighboring drainage. Immediately I looked across some 600-700 yards and spotted a cow elk standing in the snow. I glassed around and found two more cows above her and a 5x5 bull in the woods behind her. After hemhawing for about 1.5 hours, I decided to see if I could get closer without them seeing me. I had to keep circling back and down to avoid the cliffs below me. Eventually I ended up on a good rock outcropping and tried my best to estimate the yardage. The bull stood up from his bed and I decided to make my move. I guessed between 400-500 yards, which is my longest shot ever (at an animal) by 300-400 yards. I aimed about 4 feet above him and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. I tried again. This time the bull ran into the woods. Then I remembered the slight up-canyon breeze. I aimed 4 feet high and guessed 4 feet back. I pulled the trigger and he sprinted out from the trees, then angled left (downhill) and stumbled off a cliff. He was dead 4-5 seconds after I shot.

[The bull was on that other hillside]

It took me 25 minutes to get to him as I had to descend the hill I was on, cross an icy creek, then go up the creek bottom he'd fallen into. I cleaned him, removed the head, kicked him off another cliff (to make packing easier later), then quartered him out and removed the prime steaks from inside and outside the ribcage along the spine. This all took three hours and I was physically dead, but I still had 5-6 miles of hiking to get back - and a head to carry along.

[The bull ran off those cliffs above me, breaking off two of his antler points in the process]

I spent the next day packing meat from the carcass down to the trail, via the creek bottom. The next day I went all the way in for the last rear quarter while my dad and brothers came in for the front quarters that I'd left on the trail. A bear had visited that night but did minimal damage.

Then today we left. So I never really got a day off. Nor did I get a shower for eight days. But I did have a heck of an adventure at 10,000+ feet. Oh.. by the way, I used a range finder Thursday day and found out my shot was 432 yards - and I hit him right threw the front shoulder which was a great (lucky) shot. The bull was at 10, 950 feet when I killed him.

[My dad and me with our bulls, plus another 6x5 skull I found in the woods]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

Tonight I am in Utah en route to two weeks of elk hunting in SW Colorado.  I'm still not sleeping well and sniffling from a student-caused cold I caught two weeks ago.  But tomorrow we will reach our camp at 9000ish feet above sea level.  Friday I will head out with my backpack into a remote section of ground I have been thinking about for three years - the last time we hunted this area.  It'll likely be cold and oxygen-starved - quite different than where I was a week ago.

Early observations on my first few days back in America after being absent for 14 months:
* the cars are really big
* the girls are plastic looking
* materialism is still rampant
* consumption or waste are not on the minds of many people
* this is a car-based society (as opposed to trains in Japan)
* every town over 20,000 people is pretty much the same in its offerings
* there's a lot more support for Barack Obama than I expected - even from conservatives

I will likely be absent from the blog for awhile.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Geruma's Great English

This was my schedule on Geruma last week. During my weeks on Zamami and Aka I teach each elementary class just once. I've usually taught two of each class on Geruma as they really like to make use of the English teacher. But when the new teachers came in April the 3/4 teacher started scheduling me three times a week (I didn’t mind, she’s attractive). Then this week she went crazy and scheduled me four times in four days. And the sixth grade teacher apparently thought that was a good idea. The junior high JTE was lenient on me and didn’t schedule anything, but usually I would have two each of 8th and 9th grade classes (or junior high 2 and 3, as it's known in Japan).

The kanji you see on Wednesday and Thursday is for you-chien (kindergarten). That teacher always schedules me twice. It works, her kids know the alphabet (the three-year-olds have already picked up half of it), colors, fruits, vegetables, basic emotions, and most of the days of the week. This is why the English level on Geruma is amazing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Geruma Undoukai

[I want to see an argument for a more beautifully-placed school in Japan(or the world).]

I wrote a few days ago about how this is a good time of year to visit, but I only cited one reason. There is also the nice weather and the chance of seeing an undoukai. Geruma’s undoukai was last weekend. This is my fifth and they’re starting to get old, so here are just some notes:

I came on the early boat (7:45am versus 10am) to help out. But instead of being thanked I was scolded by two people for showing up wearing slippers (zorries, flip-flops). I changed immediately and then questioned why it was an issue. (Because it’s sports day and you should be wearing shoes to be active.) I gave up my ground pretty quickly since nothing was to be gained, but I did need a break so I went on a walk. I was slightly annoyed because (a) I know when I need to put my shoes on to go running and (b) the teachers can be so anal about such small things! But the walk solved all of this emotional distress.

I pay close attention to gender issues. In this picture the students are lined up by class (Aka students standing behind Geruma students): j.h. third, j.h. second, sixth, fourth, third, second, first, kindergarten. There are also lines of high schoolers and adults from Geruma. In every class or group, if there is a male present, he stands at the front of the line and girls line up behind him. The only instance where a girl stands in front is if she is the only student in the class. This replicates class lists, where boys are always listed first, alphabetically, followed by girls, alphabetically. It bothers me for all the regular gender inequality reasons, but also because (a) the girls are introduced to their inferiority in kindergarten(!) and (b) the girls and women in Japan are so resigned about it.

Here are two of the better pictures of the day:

[This is a contest where old guys make ropes from grass. The winner was about 3m long in 3-4 minutes.]

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008


Last night we had an eisa going-away party for one of our members, Kyu-chan. I’ve had a harmless crush (when was my last harmful crush?) on her for awhile and she was one of the reasons I joined eisa. When I learned the Japanese to ask a girl if she had a boyfriend, I tested the line on her. She answered yes.

The big news of last night is the announcement that she and her boyfriend are getting married. A moment of introspection for me. We both came at the same time and while I caught big fish and ran fast marathons, she met and got engaged to her future husband. I think we know who had a more productive year.

[I weigh about 85kg. She weighs 42kg. Less than half of me.]

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Running Log 9/30 – 10/5

9/30 5:23am: 13k 1:11.43 (heart rate average: 133)
10/1 4:34am: 21k 1:58.32 (HR: 138)
10/2 6:14am: 5k 27.22 (HR: 123)
10/3 5:21am: 13k 1:09.42 (HR: 131)
10/4 skipped my run for the [canceled]1000m race at Geruma undokai
10/5 4:28am: 32k 2:58.20 (13k: 1:12.32, 13k: 1:11.30, 6k: 34.18) (HR: 139)

Yesterday I returned from Geruma’s undokai to a box waiting at my door from my friend Laura. We were on the college crew team for four years, she as a coxswain, me as a rower. She had since taken a high profile consulting job in Boston and gone to Australia on a six-month assignment for them. When six months were up she quit and took a new job at a university, staying in Australia indefinitely. And doing triathlons. So we compare notes.

Inside the box was a package of Bodyglide. It was a magical gift, perfectly timed for this morning’s 32k run. Thank you, Laura. No chafe today, only a great, smooth, uninterrupted three hours of running. Which wiped me out for the rest of the day. Comforting that my semi-casual pace would have netted a 3:50 marathon.

Running here is for the solitary: on Wednesday I passed another runner, the first of the season.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Zamami Matsuri

Anybody thinking of visiting Zamami, mark this week on your calendar as a good time (that would be assuming I stayed for a third year). Zamami Matsuri (festival) was last night and it's our largest 'cultural' event of the year. All the groups prepare their biggest shows for the night. The groups include hula, taiko drumming, eisa, traditional Okinawan (Ryukyu) dance, and our band, The Mammy's.

It was my second eisa performance, but no less nervy than the first in July. Our music was provided by sanshin player from Naha, which was awesome. A lot more traditional than a cd. Unfortunately I made many mistakes, especially during the fourth song which I co-led with the other guy (we had eight girls and two guys). But.. whatever, it was a lot of fun. At least I didn't put a hole in my drum this time.

Here are some pictures I took of the elementary students, who performed before the sun went down:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2009 JET Calendar

Yesterday I got this email:

''Dear David Clumpner, Congratulations! After reviewing the photo submissions for the 2009 JET Programme Calendar, we have decided to use one of your photographs. We plan to feature the attached photograph in the Wall Calendar. Thank you for your submissions! Kind regards,''