Well I put the blog up, just in time too it looked like as the power at the school was out on Thursday and Friday for the power company to come by and inspect the school's infrastructure I believe. I got some good emails and what not from friends and family and so far the response is mostly positive. Sorry I can't do pics or videos yet but be patient, hopefully I will atleast have applied for internet next week and have someone hook it up before the month is up but I don't know. My new friend Neal that lives about 20 mins away got fiber optic internet and it took 7 months to hook up. Paper work, red tape, construction permits, etc. He says it was worth it and it was part of why he's staying another year to enjoy it, I don't think fiber is offered in my city though, too rural unfortunately. I'll have to settle for only a T3 I guess for a little more money but at this point almost anything will work for me.
Anyways enough on that, I'm sure you want to hear some adventures!
Wednesday August 15. They had that firework show over Suwa lake (central nagano prefecture, about 20 mins north of my house) They say there was around 1/2 million people there, large roads were closed down and served for pedestrians only. They had many shops set up selling all kinds of things from squid on a stick, to Nintendo DS units and Wii videos games. Yes, they were selling video games at a fireworks show. I made sure to take a pic. Other good things to take pictures of is many of the female population were wearing spring time Kimonos. They aren't called kimonos though as they are cotton and not silk and are cooler to wear in the summer. They were very nice to see and there were many of them, maybe this was the one time a year when people really wear them, during the Obon festival. I had a squid on a stick because it looked cool and it's now another story to "things I had that people back home will think I'm crazy for" like those scorpions we ate in china, or the sea worms that gave Chris and me food poisoning and looked/felt like... well you know where that is going. But I digress, the squid was chewy without much flavor so I doubt I'll be getting it again.
So this humidity is something new to me. I found out I need to drink like 2 liters of water before I start drinking as I almost started dry gagging after 4 beers later in the night. It was almost embarrassing, but I guess I havn't really had much in terms of booze in 2 weeks and have lost 6 kilos already (combination of food? sweating?) So anyways, the fireworks. So there were like 1/2 million people there and the shoreline to watch them were crawling with people and there were many units set up to record the event. The show started when it was a little light outside still and it was amazing. There were fireworks there that I had never seen before that were gorgeous, there were fireworks that shook the ground they were so loud, there were fireworks so big it didn't fit in the whole frame of my camera even though we were like 5 kilometers away, hard to say (I was never good at judging distances). They lit up a long line of fireworks that bounced off the water and for the finale they lit up a similar line of fireworks, except this one circled THE WHOLE LAKE. So there is the lake, encircled in fireworks, with the large ground shakers still going off in the distance and ... just wow. Words escape me it was so cool. I took videos and pictures of course ;) The only thing kinda weird was the fireworks would go hard for 5 minutes then they would have a lull. A voice would come on the speaker and say something then the next round would start very quickly. I found out later they were announcing the sponsor of the next round of fireworks. Really neat I guess, I remember hearing back home how a 5 minute show could cost $30,000 and one number I heard earlier was they were shooting off over 35,000 fireworks that night. Pretty amazing.
Unfortunately I didn't see much of the finale as we started to leave early... as vetrans from last year were smart to do. As it was, we waited for an hour and a half just to catch a train. There was an absolute sea of people and when we caught our train there were people still as far as you could see into the dimly lit streets back where we were waiting in line 1.5 hours ago. The trains were packed so tight as well but another japan vetran with us said she had seen worse, like trains that are so packed you don't have room to stand, your body forms some sort of cramped position kinda like when you stuff laundry in a wash machine. I think something like that would be cool to see, I'm sure most people have seen the videos floating around the internet of conductors with gloves shoving people into a train so more will fit. How you are suppose to get off at your stop is beyond me, and things are extremely punctual in Japan, they have a very good reputation for that. More on that for my friday story.
Thurs Aug 16, Got extra insurance for my car for the next year, paper work, other fun stuff... then I drove for the first time! It was messed up, everything in the car is backwards to back home except for the gas pedals. Oh and I have a standard transmission so that added extra havoc to the excitement ;) My predecessor (Sarah) left the car with less than fumes in the tank and it cost almost $60 to fill up, a price that is pretty new to me as my neon back home never broke $40. Gas here is... maybe 15-25 cents more a liter so not that much more. It is going to take a bit to get used to driving. I'm used to sticking close to the solid line on my right but now I have to stick to the one of the left so there were times I almost started driving on the sidewalk as the streets are pretty narrow. I had a friend from work, Kubota San with me which was really nice to have moral support and someone to help with directions. He showed me a big supermarket about 15 mins away from me that is much larger than my local ones so things like mustard and cereal is a little easier to find. But ya, driving will take a bit as drivers here aren't the best as the locals themselves say. There are special stickers for vehicles too, new drivers and elderly people have large stickers on the front and back of their vehicles so you know to take extra care with them around. After shopping Kubota San very kindly helped me translate a speech I will need to make in front of the schools next week. I have to do it in Romanji as I can read it faster that way although I understand Katakana. If I get a request or two I can post both versions of my speech on here if people want.
Fri Aug 17. Friday was a very big day, it is the day I got my certificate from the Board of Education of Nagano after the superintendant speech to all new jets in the prefecture. So how did I start the day off you ask? The right way!
I missed the train.
Ahhh..... crap. The train left at 7:41 and I left my house at 7:30. I must walk slower in the mornings but now I know 10 minutes isn't long enough. So there I was in my suit and it was getting hot out already with no phone or no idea what to do. I walked back to the school, it was still locked as it was too early. I went back to my place and called some co-workers that gave me numbers in case of emergencies. (nothing like getting a call at 8 in the morning when you're on holidays right?) One of them didn't answer, the other one told me i can catch the next direct train at 8:47. I called other people telling them I missed the train and please hold on.
If you know me well enough you know I'm not really a good morning person. Unfortunately it takes me a good hour somedays before I'm even in a talking mood and when it is hot outside and you're dripping sweat at 8 in the morning... ya it was a bad morning. When tired I speak less and less as I'm more likely to say something I'll regret, like one morning when mom tried talking to me while I was getting ready to go to work. I only remember it happening because of her recollection where she would try talking to me because we don't get to see each other much with both of us working the hours we did and I kinda snapped saying "you know you asked me 20 questions in the last 2 minutes?". Yea I still feel terrible about it, I'll make it up to you sometime mom.
Anyways, maybe those factors helped make the train ride one of the best experiences I've had in Japan so far. I put on some music I never really listened to in weeks because without internet there is little reason to go on my laptop and I've been really busy with paper work and learning Japanese at the same time. It was just nice to sit back, play my favorite music, sit on a soft seat, and feel the air conditioning while the beautiful mountains and towns went by my window. The trip took about 2 hours or so and I got some pictures. At one of the stops a lady in a business suit came on to the train and sat beside me. She was on there for a little over an hour and slept for most of the way. It was weird having someone nod off beside you like that, in a full suit no less. People work extremely hard here with very long hours and get sleep when they can. It isn't odd to see people sleeping at their desk I'm told.
At one point the train was going along fine, then it slowed... then it started backing up. I thought maybe they missed someone at the last stop but then like 3 minutes later a train whizzed by us in the opposite direction! It was pretty crazy, but I guess that is why punctuality is everything in Japan. So I get to Nagano and I'm well over an hour late and have a good 20 minute walk ahead of me in the heat again. Unfortunately I started to get a little bitter again, not sure why they don't give us more time to do stuff in these big cities we have never seen before, just like the Tokyo orientation. I mean here I was in Nagano for the first time, a City that hosted the winter olympics 9 years ago and I was going to spend the rest of the day indoors in meetings. Luckily the speeches I saw were entertaining and informative so it wasn't that bad and my phone call about missing the train saved the day for me as... well it happens.
After that was done I had time to meet some of the new people I'd be living near for the next year. We all later went to the all you can eat and all you can drink hotel to start the welcome party. It cost about $35 and... wow, you don't get cool stuff like this in Canada. Sure the food was kinda standard: western/japanese/chinese food buffet, ice cream and slushie machine. But the all you can drink part? Wow. They had "help yourself" rows of alcohol. It was so cool. You could pour your own shots straight from the 66's or grab a mug and put it into a machine that tips and pours your beer for you. This thing lasted until midnight and we got there at 6 or 7. Alot of drinking was done and later on half the crowd went out for Karaoke. I stayed behind because most of my immediate neighbors did although I'm sure it was fun. One good thing about staying was later on was that nights' accommodations. Now before I only heard legends about these "stay over night at an internet cafe" locations but now I was doing it for the first time ;) we rented rooms for 5 hours for about $22. It was nice having unrestricted internet again but I wasn't online long as I was feeling the 6 hours of "nomihodai" (all you can drink).
Saturday Aug 18. got up at 6 or so, missed the first train back home but there was another one coming up right away. Spent the next two hours on the train with John and Noboru talking about movies and whatever else and sobering up. It was a good time. I got home and took it easy the rest of the day
Today, about noon now Aug 26. I did some dishes and got other odd things done. I'll leave in 15 mins or so to meet Neal in Ina to visit an electronics store for the first time! Sure it'll be nothing like that crazy electronics place in Tokyo but right now I kinda need necessities like a vacuum cleaner, cell phone, fun stuff like that. I have my alien registration card ID now so I should be able to apply for services. I'll maybe have to start writing entries more regularly as this one got pretty long, sorry for that. Things have just been crazy lately and sound like they will get even crazier. Yesterday was the first time I played video games since Sunday of last week so that is usually a good indicator of how much free time I have. I might need to buy a new frying pan and stuff like that, I have one burner in my kitchen and it has 2 settings: on and off. Yesterday I tried cooking something more complicated than instant noodles for the first time and it was a challenge, but hey, baby steps right? It was only fish and rice but it's a start. I should get a BBQ or something for that "taste of home" action, not very high on the priorities yet though as I don't want to start messing with fire like that without knowing how to say more than "Tasukete!" (help) if things get bad.
It's now late in the day. The cell phone shopping was kind of a bust as I guess I should have expected with the million types of phones out there and me not really caring what I get. I did get a vacuum though and spent the last hour or so cleaning :) so happy. The trip to Ina was something of a nightmare. I thought the road I was to drive down stayed straight the whole way, well it kinda does except for the part where it crosses the bridge. I was lucky Neal was out and started screaming at my car as I drove by the meeting place that I couldn't find as I was well over an hour late at this point. The car stalled atleast 4 times getting home and the one wheel well was screaming something fierce with squealing noises which added to the frustration of driving around. I would assume I won't get lost again though and we had tasty curry for lunch. The car drove good Weds but I don't think I'll be driving it anymore until I get it fixed. The sticker under the hood says the oil should have been changed 10,000 kilometers ago and it looks like black goo, I can only pray Sarah changed the oil herself atleast once in that time. Oh ya, now that I have a vacuum I'll be able to clean the car a bit too. Neal was amazed to even see the floor of it so I should be happy for small favors, Tonya helped clean the car and my house for a good couple days before I moved in so I have to buy her some beers as a thank you. I'm starting to adapt the policy of the less I know about my predecessor the better but hey you're right Patty, people in BC really must be more laid back ;)
Good times, school starts next week. Hope things are cooling down back home ;)
"Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have."