Sometimes life in Toyokoro feels like stepping back in time.
The gas stations are all full-serve. Women dress very modestly. People smoke in restaurants. The grocery store is closed on Sundays.
But sometimes I feel like I am living in the future.
From my little couch in Hokkaido this past weekend, I was able to FaceTime with a friend in Kelowna; Skype with my parents in Maui; watch my older son’s college hockey games live-streamed from Missouri; and receive, proof read and return my younger son’s paper on business ethics. Not to mention following international (mostly North American) news, and Facebook messaging with my sister in Victoria.
I can follow the Balinese adventures of two Summerland women living their dreams; consult with fellow Assistant Language Teachers throughout Tokachi on points of grammar and recommended classic novels for keen students; arrange to join an ice fishing excursion to Lake Akan and pay my Canadian homeowner’s insurance.
As for life away from my cozy couch, winter continues.
The entire junior high school had a half-day skiing at Chururi (I bet you can’t say that three times fast), a lovely little ski hill with one double chair and a slope that reminds me of the Okanagan Run at Apex Mountain, perfect for beginners and middle-aged women who haven’t strapped on skis for more than a decade, and only 35 minutes from Toyokoro.
A large speed skating rink has been built on the school grounds behind my apartment, and the elementary school is hosting another competition today.
Children skate under the lights every evening and on the weekends, despite the temperatures continually dropping below minus 10 degrees.
I watched a similar competition in Makubetsu town a few weeks ago, and was grateful for the kerosene heaters in tents circling the rink.
The senior couple in my adult conversation class are training for a cross-country ski race at the end of this month.
My neighbour and I are running out of easy places to pile the snow that we clear from the driveway every few days, although that problem has more to do with confined spaces than actual snow volume.
The last few snowfalls have been champagne powder, easy to shovel but hard to contain.
At least the sun continues to shine brightly on the days in between and the clear night sky holds the same sliver of moon under Venus that I would see if I were home.
Janet Jory is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.