Monday, August 13, 2007

Big update, post Tokyo

Hello again,

As of this writing it's 11pm thurs Aug 2 (8 a.m. thurs in Regina). I just got into my new house and don't have internet but i need to write down alot of this stuff while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind. A rule of thumb, if I talk about it, there is probably a picture I took of it posted with possibly more information. Oh and if I mention "Nagano" I'm talking about the prefecture unless I specifically mention "City" which is an hour north or so.

July 27 Guess I should start back with my last blog entry... before I headed to calgary. The overnight bus was something of a nightmare to try and sleep in. I wasn't bored by any means, I organized my music collection for 4 hours which needed to be done for a long time obviously when i wasn't trying to awkwardly sleep :) I was at the orientation way too early lugging around my large cargo (luckily they did allow 32Kg although it's being rolled back 20 pounds in October)

Justin picked me up and I spent my last night at Pastor George's (Chris' dad) Victory Bible Collegiate International where we shared the joys of Canadian chocolate (about $20 worth) with some visiting Americans and ended the night with the Simpsons movie. It was very good if you haven't seen it yet.

July 28 The plane from Calgary transfered over at Vancouver from which we had a 9.25 hour trip over the Pacific. I only got to play a little bit of the DS as they had a bunch of in-flight movies I wanted to see not to mention TV shows like The Office. I watched Children of Men, Blades of Steel, The Time Machine, and one or two others I can't remember right now, so the trip was kinda fast.

July 29 If you want to calculate the time for me, add 3 hours and switch AM/PM so we arrived sunday. It was an interesting ride to our hotel at Keio Plaza (very fancy 5 star) almost 2 hours away by bus where I sat by another Jet named Taryn. (Hear that Patty? That is a real name after all :P) On a couple occasions the road when over somewhat large bodies of water which was pretty interesting considering the skyscrapers within reach surrounding you. Our first night there, there wasn't much we had to do other than check in so my roommates and I went exploring. First thing we see is a performance outside that we didn't understand but it was still entertaining. We then went for some food where the prices were very comparable if not cheaper than in Canada.

July 30 We had free internet at the hotel and everyone was up super early because of Jet lag. Lester was on MSN so I asked him why he was online and not at work and he mocked me for not knowing it was Sunday for him :) Silly me. I shot a quick email or two so people back home would know I'm not dead and that I'd be super busy with no/little internet to say otherwise. The day was very long with very long speeches that always seem to run over time on chairs that were too low; but atleast it was all over by 6 or so. My Nagano prefecture 'team' (there are about 49 prefectures in Japan off the top of my head I believe) went out for drinks and food at one of those neat Japanese restaurants you always see on TV where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor but there is a space under the table if you need to put your feet somewhere. We were there until 11 or so then headed back in the pouring rain. Some people wanted to do Karaoke but because of the rain we decided against it.

July 31 The speeches were long and uninteresting again, but today we skipped some. (all information they had would be online anyways) It seemed like a crime to spend your first time in Tokyo cooped up in a 5 star western style hotel, being served western food. I went on a quick journey around with a roommate (Steve) where we saw a mall that was something over 20 stories. "Le Femme Home" was 10 of those, HMV had a floor as well, and eventually I saw a small row at an out of place mall... where I found what I've had my eye out for since day one, video games. I held the new Zelda Phantom Hourglass in my hand and contemplated shipping its empty case to Matt back home while sending him photos of me playing it. But I'm not the devil and decided against it. I also held Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix (Japan exclusive) in my hand. So ya, those were like small dreams coming true but I didn't buy anything really, I still have a bunch of games I havn't started that I picked up before I left. But I digress,

So there were people on the street handing out free stuff :) I've known of this Japanese profession before but it was still neat to see first hand. The day before they gave me a cold energy drink for free that tasted like candy and today they gave free manga and magazines. I opened it and the first thing I saw was a rather... provocative centerfold. Interesting to be sure. (sorry 'gents, no pics)

After lunch we skipped more speeches, got the info that was relevant, and went out to the Canadian embassy for drinks and food. There we enjoyed a speech from the embassy's head that had alot of wisdom and interesting information. He freely mixed french statements with his english effortlessly so there were times I couldn't make out what he was saying and when he cracked a joke about 1/2 the room laughed... guess he was seeing which of us were true canadians :( Supposedly (heard 3rd hand a while back) that the building is worth as much as all of Canada's national debt (470 billion?) although they got it for free, they had to work out a deal with the builders in the 80s that the first 2 floors or so would be used for an art gallery. It is on some VERY prime real estate and is a fantastic looking place, if I had internet I'd post an arial photo/link of the place. (update: I do now! might be ok, they have more details about how it was built, but you can still search google if you want)

We went for some Karaoke after which was alot of fun (all you can drink for less than $5) and when you sing a song a number pops up on the screen. We thought it was telling you how many calories you were burning as the number was always so low, usually not 2 digits. I found out later that was a 'percentage' marking you how well you did. So I guess we were all horrible singers :) After we stumbled around some more, the destination usually depended on where the nearest bathroom and it ended up being a sushi train place. Now how these places work is there is a conveyer belt of food in front of you. It goes around with different types of food on different colored plates. When you're done eating, they count the plates and charge according to color. Some plates are more expensive than other obviously, but it was pretty late so we didn't eat much.

Aug 1 Got up around 7 or so. The roommate Steve had to leave at 6 but was still sleeping so I don't know if he missed his flight or not. Someone came to our room and made him get out of bed, poor guy. Anyways, hopped on the bus and went 3 hours west or so. The mountains here are unreal. I guess I should have known the "Rocky Mountains" were called as such for a reason as the ones here are just lush with green. Mostly Pine apparently. In Nagano I guess monkeys and bears and somewhat common "but don't worry, the bears are small; not like grizzlies" Haha... I'm not very reassured :) I was picked up by Otsuki Sensei and another teacher I'll be working with (Sorry, I'm trying very hard to learn names here, going so far as taking pictures of the person and writing the name down... which I should probably be memorizing right now [update: his name is Kumagai Sensei]) They took me to my new home town of Tatsuno Machi (Machi means town) and showed me the school after doing some shopping for groceries, applying for ID and other things I needed to get done.

I met the Vice Principal Hiki Kyoto Sensei (Kyoto = vice principal) and Kawai Sensei who I will also be working with in English. They helped me move into my new house where the first thing we saw was a screen that fell off the hinges and a wasp nest smaller than my fist. I was pretty nervous, especially considering my one bag swelled to what must have been over 80 pounds with my clothes and all that paper they gave us in Tokyo (still sorting it out). The rest of the night was somewhat uneventful, learning how to work appliances and such in my new house, cleaning a bit, unpacking... I kinda gave up half way due to exhaustion and went to bed. There are many things I'll need to buy like an alarm clock or something decent to hang my clothes up with to dry (don't like that rack thing I have now).

Aug 2 Got up early due to jet lag. Using my DS as my alarm clock for the time being. Thanks to it being summer though, I don't have to be up too early/go to school on time as there are no classes. I went to school dressed in the suit again although it got up to 29 because I'll be meeting people for the first time all the time and first impressions are everything. Sure enough, first person who called on me in the hallway was none other than the principal Yasuhito Takahashi Kocho Sensei (Kocho = principal)

We had an enjoyable talk after formal greetings (hajimemaste, doozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu) where I learnt he is my neighbor, the other teachers living around me, the names of others I'll be working more closely with. (Inoue Sensei the librarian and Uchiyama Sensei my caretaker) He gave me a background of the schools and such I'll be working with. It was founded in the early 1900s as a school to teach about silks as there are very famous silks in Tatsuno apparently, the school mascot is of a moth (moths are from silk worms) which is pretty interesting. After that we did some more little stuff like showing me my desk and we went for lunch which was pretty good. They're very interested to know that I know of Naruto, One Piece, Gundam (all are anime/manga) and asked me what I thought of the "Otaku" (cos players and other eccentrics). I thought they were ok but apparently they're not the most well liked people in Japan. They're comparable to "nerds" in North America but I went on to explain how nerds are cool now :) Atleast I want to be one, not just anyone can call themselves a nerd, you gots to be smrt first!

After lunch I went to my office to try and go through the plethora of paper I have to read. It's tough reading in a 29+ degree room and I went home and slept unfortunately until like 9. So it turned dark and I couldn't get much more done. I've been going pretty hard for a long time so this evening lounging around has been enjoyable. Stores close early otherwise I would have went shopping for more things I will eventually need. For example, the only ways I have of telling what time it is right now is from my laptop and DS. I would like to wash the walls but don't think I have a basin. Lots to do, but it's exciting at the same time.

Some of the most enjoyable experiences I've had so far is conversing with the locals with my broken Japanese and canned lines :) It's extremely exciting to be using the Japanese I've learnt over a year ago in practical applications for the first time, and being understood. That was something that was super disappointing in China, I took classes for 7 years or so but no one could understand one single word I spoke as the accent stress was so important. I amazed some students already with some of my Japanese that they were like "SUGOI!" (amazing) and "KAKOII!" (cool).

Well this entry took an hour and a half. Having a quote for each entry isn't really realistic I don't think so I'll just throw a couple out that I've heard over the last week.

"Teaching is like dropping a rock in a bucket of water. After the rock is gone, the ripples remain"

"If I give a dollar to a friend and my friend gives me a dollar than we both have 1 dollar. But if I gave him an idea/experiance and he gave me one back, then we both have 2 ideas/experiances"

Keep it real!

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