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Dear All, Completed 8th April 1997
Please excuse my slow writing rate. I'm slow and life is fast. And the only way I can think of to even catch up an iota or two is to produce a form-letter. This is it.
Where do I start? There have been so many note-worthy events since
last I scrobe (<
I have now been in Japan for roughly 2 1/2 years teaching English and now I have the means to hit the road again and crank my bicycle further over our planet's surface. The teaching furnished my wallet and I have just finished constructing my new world-bike with the help of friends at Osaka companies; Shimano, Araya and CatEye; Melody san at his Mountain Bike and CD shop; and the sparks and grind of a friendly welder / chef / artist / bed-builder called Guido and his equally capable wife, Kaori.
Not really much more is necessary to tackle such a journey, but whatever it is I've got and plenty more. My bike will once more rank closely to a heavy goods vehicle. Good exercise for chugging up those steep Chinese mountains. I haven't only been working and bike-building here in Japan. It seems like I've only been working at times. No, there has been time for enough partying to satisfy the animal in me and almost enough hikes into relative wilderness to answer the call of the wild. One thing that I had to get out of the way before quitting Osaka was a big, and I mean huge, Sayonara (farewell) Party. That went off last month and, with 3 great bands, advertising on two internet web sites and, most importantly, hoards of friends from all over the region, it went critical! Dude, man, you should'a'been there! (Go to the top of the class if you've spotted I've been hanging out with some dudes from L.A.) Also demanding my time and stretching my organisational powers over the last few weeks were 3 enormously successful photo slide shows; a quieter, more culturally broad, Sayonara party part 2 ( with poets, African drumming and traditional Japanese guitar); a Sayonara cycle ride with 10 friends to the oldest wooden temple in Japan (possibly the World); and a farewell football (soccer) match. And I still haven't seen all the wonderful friends here that I shall sorely miss when I'm gone.
Going back to the beginning '96, whilst recovering from a fractured arm got in a bicycle/car accident (Nov.95), I did a brief rail trip up to the frozen North of Japan, Hokkaido. Went snowballing on a frozen lake and did some handbell ringing in a log cabin as a prelude to a hearty meal with, you've guessed it, some wonderfully friendly folk in the mountains.
A few turbulent months later, on the way hiking up another snowy mountain, but closer to Osaka, I was with a small group from the International Outdoor Club of Osaka, when we came face to face with death. A man had presumably died of a heart attack, maybe the day before, been found, carried a short way, and then left unattended beside the path. Strangely, though, many people (search parties and the like) whom we had met before we reached him, had told us anything but that he was dead. In fact they'd said he was alright!!!! That put some of my piffling problems into perspective. Can't mope. Gotta live life to the full. Before......
The suspended snow of the spring sakura (cherry blossom), often in complete swathes of countryside, is always a spectacular experience, but really signals the onset of a high-humidity, sweltering summer. As with just about every year, last year was equally predictably so, bringing sleepless nights, bugged by heat and buzzed by mosquitoes (of the non-malaria kind), with a dawn cacophony of shrill cicadas. It's not a time for doing much, but sweating. Therefore plenty of healthy dancing, when not working, and some then too, if I could get away with it.
But I still managed to get in my first rock-climbing on some nearby towering cliffs, do some kayaking, including running a 4m. waterfall!, hike the highest mountain in the district (2,000m.+), cycle 500Km round the prefecture of Wakayama to see the highest waterfall in Japan and attend a tumultuous street festival of dancing fools, paddle with a team of dragon-boaters, and...stop for breath (now, if not then)........and enter a bicycle race at Suzuka Formula 1 race circuit (In my best race I managed 23rd out of 250+ other crazy, shave-your-leg-hard-core types, but I don't shave my legs). Oh, and you really ought to check out some of the summer festivals here, where crowds of costumed maniacs pull giant, ornate, wooden, shrine-like carts (called danjiri in one of the more infamously lethal events which I saw). Especially when nobody dies, as was the case where I went.
I almost died when I hit the wall in a cycle race amidst the technicolor Autumn of Wakayama. No I don't mean wall literally. It's a sporting expression for total energy drain. I've rarely felt so terrible. But the trees were beautiful colours. I did finish, but really needed the riverside onsen (hot-spring) soak, not only to soothe tired muscles, but to warm up. Not that it was a cold day. It was pleasantly mild and sunny. I had just put everything into my pedals. And still didn't place well. Maybe it was my unshaven legs, or my hefty mountainboneshaker compared to the others' featherlight pro roadbikes, or my racing inexperience. No, I'm just a slow pokin' unfocused tourer, and I hadn't paid full attention when they'd said that the first stage was a non-racing stage....
Writing for a small magazine and stuff (from all-you-can-eat-restaurant reviews to poetry) have also kept me busy on top of the teaching, which I've persistently enjoyed throughout my stay here, though at times, of course, it has been testing.
Now, as I'm selling my computer today, I have to hurry and complete this.
The business end of this letter is to inform you that, by snail-mail you can no longer reach me at my 2yr long Yao, Osaka address. From now on please write to me at the following address, my parents' place.
Richard Gregg c/o 103,
Mail will be forwarded to me by my ever helpful Mum, to whichever post office in the world I am headed for. If you have email capability, then every month or so I can check mail sent to the following email address box: Richard@alloweb.u-net.com
I can access it through the internet when I get to a computer with Internet connection, ie. at a Cyber Cafe or the like.
Within a week I shall be touring Japan and in mid May I'll take the ship to Shanghai to start the ride to Australia and New Zealand, covering most of the countries in between. Those are the most certain of my everchanging plans. Really, my only definite plan is that I will get there.
Here's willing you Peace, Excitement, Success and Enlightenment fromRichard.
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