37. Futsal Jamboree

At the beginning of February is the annual Futsal Jamboree. Futsal is 5 on 5, small field soccer.

  • small goals
  • kick-ins instead of throw-ins
  • no-offsides
  • goalie throw instead of goal kick
All elementary grades are represented, plus at lunchtime the local jr. high boys take on the fathers.
Like all sports around here, it’s very well organized. And they serve a great lunch!
 Arrival at the school.
Pre-game strategy sessions
Saturday is a work-day for many fathers, and the 4th-grade Nakagori squad was without a coach.
I rounded up the lads and gave them a pep-talk before game one.
“All right, you guys have done this before, yeah?”
“You all know the rules for futsal?”
“And, uh, Riku, you are the captain, right?”
“OK, then. Go play hard, don’t goof around, fight until the final whistle, and listen to Riku, ‘nkay?”
Each grade had four or five teams, and the tournament was set up as a three game round robin- the team with the most points wins.
Nakagori did well. I think we had three grades that came out on top. Owen and Allen’s team got second in the 4th grade division.
First opponent, arch-rivals Sekishi.
Owen receives a nice looping pass from defender Riku. This short-field game suits fatty Riku well, with his ball control, sharp passes, bullet shots, and of course no need to exhaust oneself running up and down a full-sized field.
O and A in second-half action. Owen fakes a long shot, then dribbles to his left to pass the off-balance #7.
 Fumie and the peanut gallery.
 Post-game scoreboard check.
 Nakagori 1- Sekishi 0! (12th minute- Riku from 16 yds.)
Meanwhile, the soba/udon noodle vats are getting fired up.
 These jokers are pestering the mothers for food already.
“Go away, you pests! It’s too early!”
 Game two was against Ohse, the other feeder school to Nakagori Jr. High. Ohse was a very weak opponent, but they have one good player, the big Indian kid, #4. Maybe O. and he will play together for the junior high team in a couple years. Note the construction barrier behind the goal- they are building a higher fence behind the playground so balls quit sailing into windows (see the board across the windows on the dark house). I’ve kicked a few over the old fence!
 Allen played keeper.
We crushed Ohse. At one moment after yet another goal I thought the boys were getting a little too cocky with their celebration. “Hey! Stop that! Show some poise already!”
Allen had that uh-oh, what did I do look on his face. The boys stopped preening and got back to the game.
OK, actually “show some poise” is above my translation pay-grade but I came pretty close to the Japanese equivalant of, “Hey, calm down, you ne’er do wells!”
More results are in and the local moms are feeling proud! Nakagori teams are undefeated, so far!
Action on field 1- 2nd graders: Sekishi vs. Ohse.
Judges tent. Fresh coffee served up by the moms. The guy with the ball is thinking, “Who’s this gaijin (foreigner) snapping pictures?”
Lunchtime, finally!
Here’s the set up:
Four stations to bring you a succulent, piping hot bowl of soba or udon.
Station 1: the Noodle Pots
Station 2: Add the broth
Station 3: fishcakes, shrimp bits, rice crispies, and green onions.
Station 4: Serve it up with chopsticks, season to your liking.
 They also had sweet mochi (gooey rice) in a bean sauce for desert, and the proverbial picnic favorite, salmon onigiri (rice cakes).
                        Rice is a staple food in Japan.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I referreed three games on this day. They had me reffing the third graders. The first two games I was the fuku-shin (assistant judge). In regular soccer, the assistant just sits in a chair behind a table on the sidelines and does nothing. There was no chair so I just stood there. At one point the ball went out of bounds and the kids just stood waiting. The main ref wasn’t indicating who’s throw-in it was. Then the coach of the visiting team said, “You have to make that call!”
“Oh! Uh. Red! Throw in for red!”
That’s how I found out that the assistant is a line judge in futsal.
I didn’t have my camera for our last game, but it was a barn-burner. Kosai was the opponent and they were tough. They had this little third grade ringer they brought up and he was quick and agile, like a little Messi. Kosai scored two and I motioned for Owen to come closer to the side while they were waiting for a ball to be retrieved.
“Hey, Owen! We need two goals! Come on, now!”
I kid you not, O. netted one thirty seconds after that!
I turned to Fumie and tried to take credit for the goal but she brushed me off and cheered for her son and the team.
Owen fought like a trooper and scored the equalizer about a minute before the half. Unfortunately, little Messi answered with a clean shot on a breakaway just seconds later, and we were down 3-2 at the half.
The second half started grim- we were against a wind whipping and gaining in strength and Kosai opened the scoring with blast from their biggest kid. After a hard-fought five minutes or so, Owen netted another for the hat trick!
I must, in fairness mention that the Kosai coach had subbed-in his second string in the first half at 2-0 and again in the second half at 4-2, so Owen was facing a much weaker defense for his barrage of goals. At 4-3, Kosai stopped mucking around and put Messi and the big kid back in. We fought hard against a tough opponent and a tough wind, but Kosai held on for the win.
Oh, well, after those Cam Newtonesque gyrations in the 2nd game, I think it was time for a nice slice of humble pie for Nakagori anyway.
The silver lining to the Kosai defeat was that we faced them again, full squad in regulation field soccer the next day. Little Messi now had to navigate four defenders on his way to the goal instead of one or two; he was neutralized and we took bragging rights back from Kosai on Sunday! (we got our a***** kicked the rest of the day, however).
On Sunday I had to ref again, this time in full regalia!
All in all, a good soccer weekend!

36. Summer Europe Trip: The End

There is not much to report about our final two days in Holland. We got an afternoon train in Osnabruck and arrived at Amsterdam Centraal at about 5 pm. Then we crossed the canal and walked the path we’d bicycled on almost three weeks earlier back to the Weeda’s home, where we ended the first leg of our trip.

 Another wet day in Holland!

Mr. Weeda had some free time so he took us for a drive while it was still light. The countryside across the canal and in the northern limits of Amsterdam is beautiful, mostly farmland dotted with small towns and age-old churches in bucolic settings. Weeda was a bit of an F-1 wannabee along the narrow roads up here, and Keenan got carsick and had to get out and get some fresh air, in the rain along a path that bordered a north-sea lagoon. 

When we got home, Mrs. Weeda had a great goulash ready for us, and some choice Dutch beer. 

Thank you Weeda’s for two great, “last nights” in Holland. 


Well, that’s it. The next day was rainy again. We had another great breakfast at the Weeda’s, and off we went, back through the park (and among the schoolchildren on bicycles) to the little ferry, over to Amsterdam Centraal. 

At a station supermarket, I picked up some blocks of Gouda and Edam to stuff in our bags, thus avoiding the 3x mark-up at the airport. 

After our short hop to Helsinki, we got lucky and were bumped up to business on an overbooked flight. My air-travel suggestion, when traveling together: don’t reserve your seat when you have a connecting flight and just wait and see where the airline puts you. Here’s my unconfirmed theory- if they can’t sit you together in economy, or economy fills up before they find you seats, you might get bumped to business.  The downside, which will break the deal for most of you, is that you also might get unlucky and end up in two middle row seats, stuck between the overweight sumo wrestler on one side and the hacking, sneezing, tubercular wretch on the other. 

These seat were the adjustable bed/entertainent center units I’d always peeked at getting on planes but never experienced for myself. If you told me it was first class I would have said of course it is. 

Keenan was in hog-fanta heaven- it was a 10 hour movie fest. 


When we arrived in Nagoya we picked up the car in the long term lot and drove right over to the Costco across the bay. I picked up a couple pairs of 19 dollar slacks for work, a couple bags of Belgian chocolate for gifts, and we wolfed on American food- greasy pepperoni pizza and big hot dogs- ahh, back in Japan!


Hope you enjoyed the blog!





35. Germany

Germany would get short shrift on this trip- about a day. Mostly, it was just the country we had to go through to get back to Amsterdam. Our route was like this: St. Margrethen, Switzerland; Bregenz, Austria; Lindau, Germany; Hannover; Osnabruck; Amsterdam.



First stop, Bregenz, on the lake. Across from the train station is the famous Bregenz Opera, with the floating stage. Lower right is the set up for the Magic Flute, which I saw with Una the year before. Keenan was furious that I didn’t take him to this year’s production of Turandot.


The stage for Turandot.


Lindau is only a 10 minute train ride from Bregenz. Here’s Lindau Harbor. That’s the boat coming in from Bregenz, or somewhere else on the lake, like Rorschach, Switzerland, or Konstanz, Germany.

The guy on the right is thinking, “First mate, first-schmate. When is old Hoerst gonna retire so I can captain this ship?” But Hoerst is thinking, “Captain Schmaptain. I should have taken the job with the Stena Line out of Bremerhaven. Maybe I wouldn’t be captain, but I’d be sailing the high seas!”


My movie director pose.



The cheapest option in getting back to Amsterdam would have been flying, but if you buy your tickets three months in advance, you can get great deals on trains. For about 80 Euros for the two of us, we got overnight tickets all the way to Amsterdam, much of the way in first class.

First leg was Lindau to Ulm, then change to a train to Hannover. We arrived late in Hannover and missed our connection, so with about an hour and a half to kill, we walked the early morning empty streets. 

Here is the 15th century Marktkirche in Hannover. It looked ominous in the dim, early-morning light.

 Note the hexagram and pentagram, upside-down, no less! (If there are any Rosicrucians among readers of this blog, please explain.) 


Our next leg took us to Osnabruck. We could have taken the train straight through to Amsterdam, but I wanted to get a full 24 hours in Germany, and trains left Osnabruck, an important crossroad of main rail lines, all the time. 

Osnabuck is near the scene of the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, where general Varus and his three legions were routed by the Germans. It’s also where half of the Peace of Westphalia was achieved, ending the thirty years’ war, with the Treaty of Osnabruck. France, Spain, and other catholic participants were based in Muenster, while Sweden and her protestant allies were here in Os.

 Keenan in contemplation, in the cloisters.


The big church on the right was light and airy on the inside. An organist was practicing on the pipe organ, and K and I sat for a good 20 minutes as the Bach was blasting.


Maximilian the First, Holy Roman Emperor, patron of the arts, and grandfather of Charles 5th(1st), King of Spain and about half of Europe during Spain’s kickin ass/takin names years.


 Osnabruck was a very pleasant town, even on this drab day. We would like to return!


Next- the end of our trip

34. St. Margrethen




After Buchs we grabbed a local train and took a 20 minute ride further down the Rhine to our last stop in Switzerland, at St. Margrethen. Our hosts were Tanja and Alex and their beautiful three children. Una and I were guests here on the ’14 trip, and it was great to see them again. We arrived around lunch time and left our bags, and walked to a very cool nearby attraction, The Fortress Museum Heldsberg. 

In 1940 the Swiss started worrying about a potential attack from Germany and Italy so they built some very sturdy underground forts along thier border. This one was constructed between 1940 and 1942 and overlooked Lake Constance and was within easy shelling distance of Bregenz, Austria and Lindau, Germany. Both towns are at lake level so from this height and armored, underground protection those cities would be laid waste if the Nazis made a move on Switzerland (although it seems nobody is arguing the Germans couldn’t have taken Switzerland, because of places like Heldsberg, it would have come at too high a cost).

From Wikipedia: The German plan for a Swiss invasion, Operation Tannenbaum, noted the presence of the Heldsberg position and concluded:

“A very desirable approach is to attack from the east at Rheineck, the shortest way to the enemy flank, but the mountainous terrain and the strong fortifications at Rheineck (Heldsberg) promise no success.”[1]

I left my battery in the charger that day! so no photos from the exhibits. Everything in the fort was in its original state, including the generators that still worked and could provide ventilation for the entire, vast network of passages and rooms. There were sleeping quarters, a mess hall, a sick bay with operation room, air-lock chemical warfare disinfectant chambers, ammo room, weapons room, command center, and gun batteries all over the place (with the original cannons and scopes you could look through  and train in on enemy targets, like the tourist boats crossing Lake Constance.) In one room they had a special, detailed exhibit about the AK-47. It appeared ol’ Kalishnikov himself had visited the fortress, sometime in the 90s. It looked like he was treated as a real big shot when he came to town.

It was fascinating and we stayed all afternoon.

At one point we were in the communication room. On the wall were maps and posters that detailed the plans for the axis invasion of Switzerland. In a display case were various samples of Nazi propaganda. There was a copy of Mein Kampf. The display said that during the war, you could find a copy of Mein Kampf anywhere in Germany. It was given by the regime to all newlyweds. It also said that the particular German version on display was very rare, as 1) Germans were quick to destroy their copies before the invading allied armies arrived, and 2) Mein Kampf was banned after the war and is still a banned book in Germany today.

I told Keenan about all this.

“But what about here in Switzerland? Can they read it here?”

“Hmm. I don’t know.”

A Swiss man was listening in and he piped up, “Yes, you can read that book here. We are like America, not Germany. Books are not banned!”

 On that note our tour ended and we had to get back to Alex and Tanja’s house, for they had invited us for a Swiss Raclette dinner. 

Pickles, potatoes, wine and melted cheese. Delish!


After dinner, fun in the basement. What a kick A & T’s kids are!



Next: Germany

33. Bad Ragaz

Bummer, our host in Buchs said that the weather forecast was looking bad and he strongly recommended against climbing the nearby peaks, which we -OK, I- had had my eyes on since the night before.

-So where do you recommend we go?

-I think you should go to Bad Ragaz. It’s not far, and it’s a real nice town.

Bad Ragaz is the home of Heidi.

   There are sculptures all over town, part of a civic project called Bad Ragartz. Get it?     

Bad Ragaz’ fame as a spa town goes back hundreds of years, when some hunters followed the path of the local river as it winded up into a deep canyon. They found steaming vents and hot pools, and it became famous for its healing powers. Later the hot water was piped out of the canyon and the town built a famous spa and hospital to take advantage of the therapeutic waters.

Here are a couple Swiss girls who I took it were staying at the hospital, recovering from injuries and enjoying the sculptures in the park. “Keenan, those girls are pretty. Go say hello!”

K glared.

It started to rain, so we took cover under a tree and lunched. This time, Emmentaler.

When we got back to Buchs we passed a lakeside  wedding reception.


Next: St. Margrethen

32. Last morning in Engadin

There was no rush to leave early, so we had a nice, slow breakfast with Johnny, who loved to talk about anything- sports, politics, the local history, Switzerland (Johnny is a proud Swiss!), etc. but the main thing on his mind was his son. Though his son did come by the house a couple times, he never stayed long enough for us to meet him. In an eyeblink, he was gone and over the hill to see his girl again. Johnny was worried about his only boy, Markus let’s call him. Markus was a strapping 19 yr. old who’s dream was to go to Canada and make it big in hockey.

“Is he that good?”

“Oh, he’s pretty good. He’s a star on the local team, but you know, in Canada everybody plays and the competition is tough.”

“So maybe not NHL level good.”

“Well, I doubt it, but I suppose he will have to go and find out for himself.”

What was heavy on Johnny’s mind was Markus’ apparent indifference to his studies. M was a smart kid who didn’t quite apply himself hard enough, in pop’s mind. His mother wasn’t real worried, figuring Markus would do fine, but Johnny constantly harped on the fact that M didn’t take his recent carpentry apprenticeship entrance exam seriously enough. “I asked him how it went and he just shrugged! I don’t think he passed. He didn’t take it serious enough. There was a written portion and an interview, and the interview included some questions in English. His English is good but I think he was lazy in the interview. He just doesn’t see how important this is! Without the license, you can’t make much money in carpentry, but with the license you can do quite well. (sigh)”

The night before, after dinner we went upstairs to have a beer with Johnny and meet his wife. Sophie was fun to talk to and we talked about her life in South Africa and her times in Holland with relatives. The conversation shifted to Markus and I sort of became the audience as Johnny and Sophie bickered over the future of their son. They both loved their only son but clearly had different ideas about how much to push him. Sophie would sort of shrug and say, “ahh, he’ll do fine, you’ll see.” while Johnny would shake his head, get red in the face and look over at me with a man-to-man pleading look that said, “can you believe this?”

I’d say Sophie had the advantage here because her English was better. She was comfortable while Johnny’s English suffered a bit when he got worked up.

The tension rose to an almost uncomfortable level a couple times but I could tell that Sophie was tough, and Johnny’s haranguing didn’t phase her much. Sophie, who had thick, jet-black hair and piercing blue eyes, would calmly make her case and then listen to Johnny fume, but never get excited herself. Tough ol’ Afrikaner!

After breakfast, Johnny took us for another walk. Workmen were drilling and installing a thermal heating system for a house in town. The concept is simple- drill a hole up to 120m deep and run a hose all the way down and back up. Circulate water through the hose and the water would heat up with the year-around warm rocks below and you’d never have to heat your house with electricity/oil again. It was a very expensive undertaking but over the years the savings in energy costs would pan out.


After watching the drilling operation for about a half hour, Johnny took us around town again, then left us to go for one more hike in the area, before heading out.

Another house of a well-off family. Note the post with devil’s head at top. Johnny didn’t know what that was all about.

We took a hike along the ski run that comes from the top of the lifts in Scuol. This would be the way to ski home from the local area if you were staying in Sent.

We didn’t expect to see Johnny when returned to the house to get our stuff, but as we entered and were walking to our room, I heard a hurried thud, thud, thud of feet on the old, wood stairs and Johnny came bursting into the room.

“The test! The results are in.”

“Your son’s test for the carpentry apprenticeship?”

  • Yes! Oh, it was addressed to him, but I just couldn’t help myself. I opened it and looked.
  • and?
  • He passed! I can not believe it! He really did it!
  • Wow! That’s great!
  • This mean’s he can go to the training and get his carpentry license.!
  • Fantastic!
  • You know, he must have been more serious about it than I thought. He fooled me, you know! He really did it!

Here was one proud, happy father. His joy overwhelmed him, and his worries of the night before vanished. For a moment anyway. After sharing this happy news with us and beaming with delight, he gazed toward the corner of the room and furled his brow and made a small frown. “But you know, it’s not easy. I’ll have to pay for his apprenticeship training and apartment in Zurich. It’s a big step. He’s got to take it seriously, but I just don’t know if he will.”

Johnny shook his head, wondering if his son could hack it. I tried to get the joyful feeling back.

“But he passed! You have to celebrate now!”

Johnny smiled. “Yes, that’s right! We’ll see!”


We said goodbye and promised to come back again some day. The bus to Scuol came in around noon and we got a 1 o’clock train. Our next stay would be in Buchs, just across from Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein.

on the way

in Buchs In Buchs our hosts let us use the bicycles in the shed and ride down to the local supermaket, a German chain called Lidl. Everything was about 1/2 the price or less what we paid in Sent at the Swiss stores eatin like kings again!

this next Friends of the Bicycle place was dee-luxe, with a little pool in back

Next: Bad Ragaz

31. Scuol

The next day we got up and traversed over to Scuol, up the Inn Valley but lower in elevation than Sent. 

This is a powerplant below Scuol. Note the large holding pond. At night, when less power is needed, they use the excess energy to pump the water in the pond back up the valley, so it can run through the turbins again the next day.

In the village of Scuol.  Remember, there are four official languages in Switzerland. We happened to be in the far east of the country, where the Romansch language is still hanging on among less than 1% of the Swiss population. Our host, Johnny, was born here, but left when he was young to the German speaking region. Our other host was Johnny’s wife, Sophie, a South African/Dutch who could speak Romansch, fluent English and just about everything else. Johnny said his son, an aspiring hockey star or future carpenter, was more fluent in Romansch than he, and he (the son) was very patriotic and sympathetic to the cause of the Romansch people, and always spoke Romansch to his girlfriend a couple valleys over.

Sorry, no Romansch option on google translate, but they did have this explanatory sign up, in German and Romansch, which served as a Rosetta Stone for our Romansch studies later that evening.

 The German text reads (straight from Google),PREPARES it once joy, to remember MAYBE m 1696 were Tomas Hainrich and his sons Joan and Gallus build this house.  The coat of arms and the inscription bear witness to this.  It is a plant of rare consistency and with more original facades.  The facilities Interior is unique and has undergone a few changes.  The beautiful outstanding oven corresponds to the former construction.  Thus saving space in the kitchen, the fire was lower.  Such ovens were common in the Engadine.

Allegra! is the word you use to greet people. It seemed a bit all-purpose, like “servus” in Tyrol, or “aloha” in Hawaii. Bogn means bath and this was the local spa.

Here Keenan gets a drink from the local fount. One spigot is regular mountain water and the other is gaseous spring water with high mineral content, warmer and not so tasty but healthier we presumed.

I can almost understand this. Any ideas?

Today, lunch on the riverside. Our standard fare by now- cheese on chips, fruit, drink, and in this case, chocolate. Today’s cheese, a nice, swiss Gruyere.

Another picture where you set the camera to color saturation. They are a bit phony with the over-colorization, but I really like ’em. The feature gives the pictures a 1960s postcard look to them.

Often on this trip the thought in my mind was, “Hmm. Shouldn’t have tried to hit so many towns and just settle in one spot for longer, so we could do some high-alpine hiking.”

After a day walking/hiking around Scuol, we took the bus back up to Sent.

Here was the local Irish pub. Run by a local woman who some claim doesn’t much like outsiders, least of all the Irish.

There was still plenty of light to have a rest out on the patio and enjoy the view.   

Goofing around after dinner in the living room.

Next: We leave the Engadin Valley and travel into German Switzerland.