Wednesday, November 12, 2008


one lucky day in autumn is my school's ensoku or "excursion." each class goes somewhere as a group. last year i enjoyed playing in the park with the third-years, but this year the teachers worked extra hard, and we got to go to a theme park! on a weekday! for free! it was ridiculous! ;D
the only hard part was getting up at 5:30, but the morning was beautiful. we set off in seven buses (one homeroom per bus) for the long drive. it was the only time i've gotten to experience the (uniquely japanese?) feeling of the homeroom as a close-knit family. usually they have the same homeroom all three years of high school, so they really know each other well. the atmosphere was festive and kids moved freely around chatting an joking with each other, taking pictures of their classmates who had fallen asleep, and sharing snacks.
i talked a lot with hiroshi and yukimasa in the seat behind me because i know them pretty well. they sang a cappella songs, some in "english." one such song was Stand By Me, but instead of starting the chorus with 'Darlin' Darlin',' yukimasa burst into song with, "Stalin! Stalin!"

i also told them about Cold Stone Creamery, since they have one at the mall near the theme park. i told them they could choose their own base ice cream flavor, select the ingredients they want inside, and make their very own custom flavor of ice cream. stunned by the breadth of choice, but willing to give it a go, yukimasa pantomimed obama and said with conviction, "Yes we can!"

we pulled up in the shadow of the Steel Dragon, the 1st longest and 5th tallest roller coaster in the world! holy crap! it was amazing. i have never lived anywhere near an amusement park, so it was an awesome sight. even more amazing, i was flirting with the idea of riding it! weird, since i'm the type who would usually flat out refuse and go ride the merry-go-round instead. generally i do not like feeling like i'm going to die. i do not want to know what it's like to fall out of a skyscraper. call me crazy.
the weather was perfect, and the park was virtually empty when we arrived. the kids were given the freedom to do as they pleased, and i set off with two teachers to explore the park. i knew if i didn't grab that faint desire to try a roller coaster quickly, it would disappear and i would feel disappointed in myself. after getting a smashing view of the entire park from the ferris wheel, naoko and i lined up for the White Cyclone, a beautiful wooden coaster. it was my first real roller coaster ever.
i wondered if i would scream; screaming seems to take a lot of energy to muster. we climbed the first hill slowly and passed the ominous "Do Not Stand Up" sign, and the rest is history. we plunged down the clackety wooden hill so quickly and got so much lift that i was sure we were going to rip right off the tracks. my screams came effortlessly. the ride was thrilling to the end because the supports keep you from really seeing what's coming next. several times you cross into the structure itself, and it feels like you're going to lose your head in the beams. my legs were shaking as we headed out of the ride, but it was way exhilarating! the only question was: did i have enough guts left for the big one?

we meandered slowly to the base of the huge Steel Dragon. i needed some time to gather my wits, and i wanted to watch the ride from below first. the first hill is the biggest one. the Steel Dragon drops you more than 30 stories at 95 mph! i was on the brink of just walking away, but i knew it was my only chance to go with my students and not have to wait in any lines, so we took the plunge. the climb is slow enough (almost a minute of suspense) to get a good view and get really scared. naoko kept saying how high it was, and i said nothing at all. they get you to the very top and stop the ride for a few seconds so you have to face the ground before hurling towards it. i think it was one of the most terrifying things i've ever experienced! after the first two drops, i knew the worst part was over, so i enjoyed the rest of the twists without fear. thankfully that was when they snap the picture, so i had a huge smile of relief.

the view from the bottom:

and from the top: (Lewis Boeve's photo)


  1. first: i am cracking up at you! this picture is so you it's hilarious. second: how did you get this groovey comment format? third: thanks for commenting on my blog. fourth: love you bean.

  2. thank you! i knew i had to have this picture, so funny! for the comment format: "settings" tab, then "comments" tab, then scroll down to "comment form placement" and choose "embedded below post."
    love you too, bean.

  3. oh my gosh it is so crazy how widely people followed the us election.. I love his impersonation of obama. ha! I too absolutely adore that roller coaster photo of you.... that expression is exactly the Lauren I know.

  4. haha, thanks. it's my "i'm so glad we didn't plummet to our deaths" expression!