Photos of the Week 5

Forgive me for mostly doing a lot of photo only posts lately, that's primarily because there isn't a whole lot to do around town right now. Only about a third of the mountain is open for skiing and snowboarding so far and because of this business in general around town is slow for the time being. But that's soon to change with the holidays coming up. In the meantime, here are some more photos from around Mammoth.

I'd say that the snow out there is a little worse than mediocre. It hasn't snowed in a few weeks and it has been terribly cold and windy lately (5 F at night and gusts upwards of 100 mph at the mountain summit), so the conditions have only been getting worse.



Mrs. Kramer's Class Has Some Questions

(note: Sure it's been nearly 8 months since I returned from Japan, but this piece just seemed to trickle together very slowly.)

Being that my mother has been an elementary school teacher for over thirty years, my teaching in elementary and middle schools in Japan was ripe for experimental exchange between our students. My mother curated a set of questions from her students for me to ask mine. Some of these questions I was simply able to answer myself, while others are the result of my polling various different students and getting a feel for the best answer. My students really enjoyed knowing they were getting questions from Miami. After I returned to Miami from Fuji City, I came into my mother's class room and spent time with her students, presenting them with the answers from the Japanese students as well as fielding any new questions they may have had. It was great experience for both the students and myself.

1.  "How do you say Good morning in Japanese?" Ohayou gozaimasu, pronounced phonetically as “Ohio go-zai-mas” 2.  "What are the most important things that Mr. Kramer has taught you?" My students felt that "Hello" and "Thank you" were the most helpful. 3.  "What important celebrations are part of Japanese culture?  How do you celebrate them?" The most important holiday on the Japanese calendar is Shogatsu, which are New Years Day celebrations. New Years Eve is not a big party day as it is in much of the western world. Not long after the clock strikes midnight, the people of Japan go to sleep so they can rise early to go to the Shinto temple the next morning. Some of the more clever students responded with “My birthday!” 4.  How much time do you spend on homework after school, and on weekends? Japanese school usually runs from 7:30 AM until 3:20 PM, but more often than not, students come to school early and leave late to participate in club activities (sports, academics, competition practices) often not leaving until 6:00 PM. After that, most all students attend juku, which are cram schools tutoring students in various subjects such as English and math. Juku often goes on until 9:00 PM or even later. Some students will usually study or do homework upon returning home. So the answer to the question is “quite a lot.” 5.  How much do you read after school? Reading is hugely popular in Japan, in my junior high school there were always lines out the library door during recess of kids returning and checking out stacks of books, often 10 or 20 high. Many students will read recreationally between classes, comic books being especially popular, but novels of a wide range of genres are also read. So the answer to the question is, again, “quite a lot.” 6.  What do you like the most about your country? “Peace!” and “sushi” were  easily the most popular answers. 7.  Do you know enough English that you can flaunt it to other people? As an indication of the answer, only a select few of my students would even understand what this question means. 8.  If you could go anywhere in Japan, where would you go?  and why? Hokkaido and Okinawa are by far the most common answers to this question. These locations are much like Alaska and Hawaii of the US. Hokkaido is the northern most island of Japan, with abundant snowfall and distinct cuisine. The Sapporo Winter Festival is by far the most popular festival in Japan. Okinawa is the southernmost island group in Japan, actually being closer to Taiwan than to main land Japan, and is seen as a tropical paradise. 9.  How fast does the bullet train go? 240-300 km/h (149-186 mph)! 10.  What kind of sports do you like to play? Basketball and soccer are by far the most popular sports in my junior high school, with baseball close behind in third. We actually had the number one boys basketball team, number one softball team and number one boys soccer team in Fuji City for the 2010/2011 school year. 11.  What is the favorite food in Japan? As far as Japanese food goes, sushi and various types of fish were popular answers, but the winner, by far, was ramen noodles. Ramen is basically Japanese fast food; cheap, delicious and leagues better than the Cup Noodle we associate ramen with in the States. Outside of Japanese food, McDonald’s is also a big favorite. Some of my students have such an affinity for the Golden Arches that they thought it to be Japanese and called me a liar when I told them it was from America. 12.  What is the most popular sport that people like? Baseball is by far the most popular sport in Japan. Some of my students are under delusions that soccer or basketball are number one, but that’s usually because they play those sports for the school team. Soccer has definitely been gaining popularity in the nation and grows larger with each passing FIFA World Cup. 13.  What is the best part of living in Fuji City? I exclusively received two answers, “views of Mt. Fuji” and “my house.” A testament of the exciting metropolis that Fuji City is. 14.  Does Mr. Kramer speak Japanese very well? “Oh yes, very well, very good.” They are liars.

Photos of the Week 4

Last week the Mammoth Mountain opened up for skiing. Haven't really been up to much, so I haven't been taking many pictures, but enjoy nonetheless!

There isn't a whole lot of snow on the mountain, as such only 4 chair lifts are open out of 23, so the riding isn't the best, but it's nice to be out there able to get a few runs in before laundry has to be done.

Let's Talk About Where I Work

Tamarack Lodge was built in 1924 by the Foy family from Los Angeles, on whom the Bob Hope movie "The Seven Little Foys" was based. The family used the house as a place to entertain guests from Hollywood. In 1927, Lloyd B. Austin bought the property and would subsequently own it for the next twenty years. It was during this time that cabins started being built, fishermen during the summer and skiiers in the winter. At the time there were no roads to Mammoth Lakes, so all transportation in the winter was via dog sled, snowshoe or ski.
Over the decades, the lodge changed owners a number of times. Cross country skiing was added to the resort in the 70s and The Lakefront Restaurant in the 80s. Today the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area owns and operates Tamarack Lodge.
As it stands now, Tamarack Lodge has over 30 cabins and over 10 rooms in the lodge. Virtually all of the cabins are unique to each other. There are studio, one, two and three bedroom cabins, all with kitchens, most with fireplaces. One of the biggest attractions to the lodge is The Lakefront restaurant (a lot of people tell me that it's the best restaurant in town, and I honestly agree with them), which you can find out more about and see a menu by clicking here.
Cabin 11 is out premier 3-bedroom cabin.
The studio cabins are quite quaint.
A 1-bedroom cabin.
Cabin 25, a 2-bedroom, is one of my favorites.
The interiors of many of the cabins have recently been renovated, a necessity as many of the cabins date back to the early 1950s.
Some of the cabins have absolutely fantastic views.
Tamarack Lodge is located directly across from the Twin Lakes, which has great fishing and beautiful views.
You can even have weddings on the property.
It really is a beautiful place and it's pretty great that this is what I see everyday when I get to work.

Photos of the Week 2

For my days off I drove down to Los Angeles for my friend Roig's birthday. It's a five and a half hour drive from Mammoth to L.A., a very beautiful five and a half hour drive.

Boxcars with mountains in the background.

There just so happened to be a birthday party for my friend Sarah (so many birthdays!). It just so happened to be at the Moonlight Rollerway. It just so happened to be "Organ Night." (click the video below to view)

It rained almost the entire time I was down there, which was unfortunate, but that very same storm dumped 18 inches of snow down on Mammoth. Almost immediately after I passed the "Welcome to Mammoth Lakes" sign, I was surrounded by snow, in the air and on the ground.

The next morning, I woke up to this sight outside of my bedroom window (click the video below to view)

While it isn't unusual for it to snow here in October, it won't be here for long. It's expected to get up to the 60s this weekend, so it's doubtful that the snow will be on the ground for much longer.

All this, just as the leaves started to change color.

The Great Pacific Northwest

On a recent return flight from Miami for my cousin Merrilyn's wedding, I got bumped off of my flight due to a combination of overbooked and delayed flights. The best part was that I got 300 Delta Dollars out of it. Now, it just so happened that I had been speaking with my friends Jake, Michelle, James and Rebecca about planning a trip to Portland, Oregon, which is where Jake and Michelle live, not long after obtaining said Delta Dollars. It also turned out that that was the going rate for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Portland was roughly $300. Booked.

Portland, along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, is notorious for it's depressing, overcast and drizzling weather. However, in the summer, the weather is perfect. As Michelle (more or less) said "if it were this clear and beautiful year-round, Portland would be the best city in the world." The temperature is a perfect mid-70s in the daytime, with nighttime lows in the 50s or 60s. There's a bit of overcast in the mornings, however it likes to clear out at around noon.

One of the first things I noticed was how amazingly clean the city center was, it can stand toe to toe with the cities of Japan. There are parks and public squares scattered all over downtown, with lots of tree cover in these areas. You can tell the city really comes alive in the summer, with people taking full advantage of the great weather. There are farmers markets, music festivals, beer festivals, people sunbathing and the like.

Food Trucks. I know that they are everywhere in this country now, but Portland is doing it right. There are food trucks everywhere, I can't imagine you ever being more than a mile from at least 5 food trucks in the city. All over, and especially downtown, there are a ridiculous amount of parking lots that have turned into food courts made up of food carts, as seen above. There are your staple foods, Thai, Asian-fusion, hot-dogs, burgers; but than there are also your unique specialty carts. Traditional japanese festival food, Montreal style poutine, Polish, egg sandwiches, gypsy food and new trucks pop up with different fare all the time.

Portland also serves as a model to any city in regards to public transportation and bike usage. A light-rail, named the Max, runs from the airport to, and throughout much of, downtown. There are bike lanes and paths that can take you safely and quickly from rush hour traffic in the middle of the city to the suburbs, past amusement parks, hotels and wildflowers with amazing views of the city from any of the many bridges that cross the Willamette river, which bisects the city's east and west sides.

The very first thing I noticed, before the clean and before the food carts, was the green. So green! Trees everywhere!  No doubt that is has a lot to do with the constant drizzle the region experiences. But on top of that, the city and its citizens seem to be much more keen to maintaining these green aspects.

Just a short drive outside of Portland in almost any direction will bring you to a lot of beautiful pieces of nature. Jake, James and I went on a camping trip close to the Pacific coast. We took a ninety minute drive, past farms and Paul Bunyon, to Saddle Mountain State Park. In the morning we climbed to the top of the 3,283 foot (1,001 meter) tall Saddle Mountain for some spectacular views. From there it is was only a short drive to Canon Beach on the Pacific coast, where, despite the freezing water there was quite a lot of surfing going on.

Jake looking across the mountains

30 miles in the other direction of Saddle Mountain is Multnomah Falls, sitting on the south side Columbia River Gorge and is the largest waterfall in Oregon. The sight of the falls isn't all there is to see in the area, there are also dozens and dozens of miles of hiking trails up in the mountains behind the falls with streams and smaller waterfalls aplenty.

All said, Portland and its surrounding areas are fantastic, fun, delicious and beautiful. There's a lot more to say about the city, it's certainly one of my favorites, so check it out yourself. Also, be sure to go into Powell's Books in downtown, it is the best bookstore I have ever been to.