Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Quick Comparison...

First, here on the left, a photo of Mt. Fuji from station 5 as we began our hike in the morning.... And second, on the right, the "view" of Mt. Fuji as we concluded our hike in the afternoon. I couldn't even tell where the mountain was well enough to frame my shot! This sight left us with no regrets for turning back early!


The Trail Down

Mike and I took a snack break part-way down the hill while Ben and Sam went ahead for a bit. I think they're in this picture somewhere... :) The trail down was really steep, and consisted mostly of loose stone several inches deep. The quickest and easiest way to get down was to use the leap-slide method to sort of bound down the slope - but woe to you if you fell down! It was like falling on asphalt and the stone really cut into your hands. Fun, though! Posted by Picasa


On the Way Down

Here I am threatening Mike with my walking stick (too many pictures!). You can see how my pretty green walking stick ribbon bled all over in the rain... Posted by Picasa


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Avast, me hearties!

Arrrrrr! Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Our pastor used this day as an illustration this past Sunday, tying it to the passages in James (here and here) where it talks about the importance of how we speak. Clever, I thought. For your edification and amusement, here's the link to the Original Talk Like a Pirate Day homepage, complete with lots of entertaining links to lighten your day. Many thanks to Sam for the graphic. :)

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's a.........

GIRL! Maybe. :) When pressed for percentages (by an eager Mike), the doctor said he was about 80% certain that it was a girl and that we will check again next time to confirm. Whoa. This was concluded at our 20-week ultrasound this past Saturday. We get an ultrasound at every appointment, so hopefully we'll be able to confirm this in another four weeks. Crazy! Knowing the gender makes things a little more real - like there is an actual baby, a girl, a person, who will grow up and we will parent, in my belly right now.... AAAAAAAAA!!! Do you mean to tell me that we'll complete mountains of paperwork and endure scads of tests in order to be allowed to drive in this country, but we're allowed to have a kid just like that? Are you sure we don't need a license for this??? We forgot to take a belly picture this weekend, but I will post one as soon as we do - there's actually a little something to see now! There are also more pictures of our Mt. Fuji excursion as well as a trip to Gujo Hachiman and, most recently, a kickin' wig party on deck - so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Recommended Reading: C-Sections

I just ran across this article in the New York Times, entitled "Voluntary C-Sections Result in More Baby Deaths". Yikes! While the findings are by no means uncontested, here's the gist of it: Some researchers looked at records for nearly six million births in the U.S., using data gathered by the CDC. They "found that the neonatal mortality rate for Caesarean delivery among low-risk women is 1.77 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the rate for vaginal delivery is 0.62 deaths per 1,000." While it's apparently not news that the infant mortality rate for babies born via C-section is higher than those born vaginally (though it was to me), doctors have always thought that this was due to the complications that led to the C-section to begin with. This study raises questions about that assumption. According to this article, the C-section rate in the U.S. is about 29.1%. The World Health Organization recommends a C-section rate of 10-15% - quite a difference! (In the interests of full disclosure, I wasn't able to find this recommendation on their website myself. I did, however, find a series of illustrations showing how to perform a Caesarean which was very, very yucky.) One reason I think I'm so comfortable having this baby in Japan, despite language and cultural barriers, is that they have one of the lowest C-section rates in the world - as low as 7-8%. I'm glad to be doing this in a place where I can be more confident that, if I do end up needing a C-section, it's much more likely to actually be necessary. While there certainly is a place for C-sections, it seems that they're grossly overused in the U.S. But if a doctor tells a woman, "You need a C-section or your baby's life is in danger," how many women will respond, "Oh, no thank you, it's statistically unlikely that this is actually necessary. I think I'll take my chances." Not many.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wherein Things Begin to go Downhill

Station 7, at at last! It is now 11:20 a.m., and we've been hiking for over four hours. We began our hike a bit under 2000 meters above sea level, and are now at 3000 meters with 776 left to go. It's raining. We continued on a bit beyond this point, but decided to turn back before too long. You can see a photo of us at our turning point at Ben's blog, here. (And I'm in that photo! Click on it to zoom in and see how wet we really were.) Our reasoning? We knew that we still had a few hours to go before reaching the top, and a long hike down as well. We had no idea whether or not the weather would clear. Four hours of climbing in the rain with no guarantee of any kind of view once we finally did get to the top wasn't too inspiring - especially since we were already wet to the skin. We were disappointed not to have made it all the way to the top, but we all agreed that it was the right choice in the end - especially since the clouds only increased, both on our hike-day and into the next. Turning around saved it from being an altogether miserable experience. Instead, it's something that I can look back on and still say, "That was a lot of fun! We had a couple rough spots, but what a great experience!" Posted by Picasa

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The Halfway Point???

We don't know for sure... but we think that this was the halfway point in the ascent to the top! You can kind of see a little shrine behind Sam here with lots of ribbons and bells on it. (There was another one at the beginning of our climb that I didn't take a picture of.) We've seen the kind of shrine when hiking before. As I understand it, you're supposed to pray that the god(s) of the mountain would give you a safe climb before you begin, give thanks for safety when you're done, and (judging by this shrine) perhaps throughout your climb as well. The bell and ribbon are some kind of offering, I guess. The walking sticks we bought at the bottom - Sam has hers here - all came with bells and your choice of ribbon. I like the idea of asking for a safe climb, though I don't pray at these shrines (just because my God is a "jealous" god, in the sense of a person who doesn't want their spouse dating other people). You can click here for more information on Shinto. Posted by Picasa


Another Still Life

Darn it, the lighting wasn't quite right here. I was hoping for a "framer". :) The purple flower was also pretty common on the slope. I liked the contrast between that plant and the log and rocks. Posted by Picasa


Fuji Flowers

I don't know what these were, but we saw them all over the mountain. Some of them were pink (the spiky ones that are kind of yellow here, I mean). Posted by Picasa


Hi Mike!

This is Mike. :) He's eating pistachios, which we learned that Sam is allergic to. If you look very closely, and maybe if you zoom in on this picture, you can see some little dots on the slope behind Mike right around his waist level. These are people heading down the down path, which you'll see us on shortly. Posted by Picasa

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Hi Ben!

This is Ben. :) Notice how steep the slope is, and how the trail winds up it. (You can see Station 6.5 a good bit below.) It's much faster going down than up because they take out most of these curves on the downward trail. It's quite steep. Posted by Picasa

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The View from on High

This is taken from station 6.5, I think. The station designations are a bit deceiving. You think that you'll be coming to five rest stations before the top - 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Actually, there were maybe three station 6s, a couple 7s, a few 8s... So I think this is the second station six. I think that this is actually where my nap was vetoed. :) You can see that the clouds are rolling in... That did make for a nicer climbing experience; the temperature was quite comfortable by now! Posted by Picasa


An Asian Lily

I really enjoyed looking at the flora on the way up Fuji-san. This exquisite lily was quite tiny, maybe 2.5"-3" across, and growing on a very long stem. Posted by Picasa


Onward and upward!

Onward and Upward by John Charles Earle I pass the vale. I breast the steep. I bear the cross: the cross bears me. Light leads me on to light. I weep For joy at what I hope to see When, scaled at last the arduous height, For every painful step I trod, I traverse worlds on worlds of light, And pierce some deeper depth of God. Mr. Earle's aims were a bit higher than ours. We were just trying to keep putting one foot in front ofthe other - but I liked the poem. :) As you can see, we're traversing a pretty steep incline here. Posted by Picasa