Thursday, October 11, 2007

Eating kangaroos, seeing monkeys and throwing rubber boots

Have been really busy again, seems to be the theme of this trip. Something is always happening and there is always stuff that needs to be done like food shopping or laundry. Good experience for me at any rate, hopefully it will teach me to start budgeting time or not be so lazy. I've uploaded a whole lot of new photos, I decided I can just post them all and maybe give them titles and/or descriptions later as that's the part that is the most time consuming for sure. Don't forget that I have a comments section and I will address any questions/requests as they come. For example I can easily email the pictures out if you want a full size copy.

Last week was pretty relaxing, one day I was walking to work half asleep again when I stopped, and was like 'holy crap a monkey!' Right in front of me maybe 5 feet away was a monkey! Then it must have been like "holy crap a human!" as it started to run away. By the time I got my camera out it was kind of far away but you get the point. I keep being told they are dangerous but I didn't have any food on me and he looked small and fuzzy. Attached is a picture of him when he was a safe distance away after I got my camera out.

On Wednesday my students at Yayoi had shorter classes than normal as Thursday was the day for their "chorus contest." Each classroom faced off against each other in a singing competition, and let me tell you some of the singing was just unreal. They have been practicing for weeks on end for this and they sounded amazing. Sure I couldn't understand half of the songs, but when they sang "glory glory lord" from Sister Act 2 or "We are the world, we are the children" then I recognized the songs. Brought back memories from when Chris and I sang that in China and how everyone would be pretending to sing along during rehearsals so they could listen to Chris and I sing it a couple times and they could follow suit. Kinda strange though, especially considering they had the song, they could have listened to the chorus and imitated that like Chris and I did. But anyways, I couldn't see the competition direction as it was on Thursday and I was teaching in Tatsuno that day. Pity, they sounded great. Only thing that was strange/funny though was the moderator of the rehearsal. The classes only got 5 minutes each to sing and when time was up she would jump on the mike and firmly tell them to get off the stage in a robot voice. It was especially funny because many of the songs really were moving, you were getting a little emotional and all of a sudden she would boom over the speakers; even when they were about to finish the song off in a strong finale! Good times, we got a kick out of that (went with my caretaker Miss. Matsushima, she was going to be a judge)

I've introduced a project to both my advanced classes in both schools. "Project time capsule" so they have to pick an item and present to the class why it is important to them and/or Japan and/or the world in the year 2007. I like to make them form opinion pieces because those have no right/wrong answers and I am trying to spark their creativity. You can tell some of the students aren't overly confident with doing so but hopefully I can encourage them enough to look past those brutal tests I gave and know that they can do it if they try.

We had some students come visit us from New Zealand as well for a little exchange program, speaking of which I have to interview 4 students from my school to help prepare them to visit New Zealand themselves in spring. Anyways, the one guy was pretty quiet but the girl that came was just loving the experience. I definitely put the idea in her head that she could get her degree and come teach like I am as during their good bye meeting with the Kocho (principal/boss) she mentioned how her goals in the future are to graduate and come back to Japan to teach for a while. I even worked them into one of my classes, getting them to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their home, and having them participate in the English games we played that day (it was hangman). It was fun either way.

So the weekend comes around, 4th 3 day weekend in a row, and Jake and I were up for a road-trip. There was a town festival happening in Kitaaiki village about 2-3 hour drive away. The Australian in charge of organizing the "international team" had a "Gumshoe" throwing competition. In Australia a Gumshoe is what we would call a rubber boot back home. So anyways there we were trying to drive straight to this place that happens to be separated from us by a mountain range. I tell ya, I got new confidence in my car after that treck and a new appreciation for video games. There were all kinds of steep hair pinned turns in beautiful surroundings. At one point I was cruising down a hill when I caught a glimpse in the mirror that showed me what was around the corner and a big bus took the turn! Good thing I saw it and slowed down, there were a couple close calls as it was but it was fun. We gave up being on time as it was taking a lot longer to get there than we hoped so we found a payphone (no cell reception on top of a mountain). The picture attached came from a quick nature hike we took at top, it is now my wallpaper on my compy.

This is a basic excerpt of the conversation: "Hey we're at the top of a mountain, it is taking a lot longer to get there than we hoped and might not get there before it ends" (we thought it was over at 2p.m.) "should we still come out after coming this far? Like is something going on after?"

"What are you talking about? The festival is tomorrow. We're going to a cabin tonight and you're welcome to join us."

Haha so ya, we were in the clear. We stopped at a fancy restaurant and I maybe had the best pasta I have ever eaten, it was so tasty and for a good price too. Just delicious. We met up with some new JETs I havn't met yet (hey there are over 100 in Nagano prefecture alone) and all headed together to the cabin to throw our stuff in and head to the onsen.

Not sure if I talked much about onsens yet (translated: hot spring). Melissa kind of experienced one with her "spa" in South Korea. It is basically a big bath house and they are famous and plentiful in Japan. Now this place really was a spa too with big massage chairs and other goodies. I enjoyed sitting out in the hot tub under the stars (still getting used to the having to be naked bit) and even did the sauna and ice water bit, that was great. We went back to the cabin and ate... Kangaroo meat! The kangaroo is the one on the left and it's sales pitch was "it'll keep you hoppin'!" I found the meat to be a little tough, nothing too special but I guess the price was right, not that expensive. The crocodile was kinda pricey though.

Anyways, so later that night we went out to do a nearby maze with crazy footing as it was built into the side of the hill. You walked around it blind as a bat with crazy slope on the ground but it was lots of fun. Some of the JETs were cold so they had a blanket on their backs. You had to be close to see but when you did I thought it looked like batman! So I started running around the maze saying the batman theme "na na na na naaaa doko da!" (doka da = where is it? as in the exit) I got a little loud so I heard a few "shhhh"s from some people. The song then changed to "na na na na naaaa shitsureishimasu!" (shitsureishimasu = しつれいします = my apologies/sorry for intruding) alot of people got a kick out of it and it quickly became the running joke of the road trip which is great though. My philosophy is that every good road trip needs an inside joke as any body not on the trip wouldn't get the joke but for the rest of the weekend whenever someone started singing shitsureishimasu! we would all bust out laughing. I suppose this picture that was taken on my camera had something to do with it as well as the "excuse me" joke was still going around and this picture was taken completely by accident but helped make "shitsureishimasu" a legend.

It was a lot of fun but we needed rest for tomorrow's festivities. There would be sprinting! A fearful thing indeed, especially for someone of my size and terrible shape. (on that note I am running a 30km marathon tomorrow....scary) It was really neat seeing a whole town come out and play games together. Again I literally posted hundreds of photos and this road trip has its own folder under kitaaiki to see some of the cool and crazy games we played and watched the town play as well. Everything from a relay to tug of war to large jump-roaping. My favorite event was a combination relay where you had to run under a net, eat a mashmellow from a tub of flour, run with a ball on your tennis raquet, pop a balloon, walk a balancing beam, then potato sack jump it to the finish line. I made a dramatic dive at the finish line and took first place by swatting down the finish marker and cutting up my arm on the gravel in the process. I somehow ended up with 3rd place though, guess they only counted it once my sack crossed the line and not my flour-face and now bloody arm. Heh ah well, it was fun. Attached is a picture of some students after eating the marshmallow and having to run with the ball.

We ate the crocodile here too, it was alright I suppose, not a lot of flavor by itself and it had a texture of overcooked chicken mixed with fish. It was good though, I kinda wanted to make a patty of it and eat it like a burger. Maybe next time. This event ended up taking all day and we were really tired when it ended. Jake and I got a bad sunburn and we all went home. This time we went around the mountains and saved an hour plus maybe a 1/4 tank of gas by doing so. The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxing.

Back at school later, I wanted to show off photos of my trip but my computer wouldn't boot, it would beep at me instead! I searched google on another computer and found out something was wrong with my ram. I guess one of my sticks died so now I'm running with 1/2 the ram but at least it is running, I'm happy for that. It's almost sad to say how reliant I am on technology but I guess I make myself that way, it doesn't have to be like that. I sometimes feel like being here is something of a camping trip, the last 2 nights for example will be the first of many where I sleep with sweat pants, bunny hug and socks on as it is too cold at night to not do so. I took a quick look the other day at heated blankets and whatnot but they're kinda pricey. Being warm though might be worth the price though, especially considering the long winter ahead of me. Weird how I am getting tips like "sleep with a hat or something on" as most warmth is lost from the head and in turn your digits start getting cold as the brain shuts down their circulation to look after itself. Hence the bunny hug, I've been waking up really cozy and warm thanks to it.

Heh the students are a lot fun. They are opening up even more, asking how I am and stuff. I tell them how I am sleepy because I was up late watching One Piece again (my favorite anime) and they get a good laugh out of it. Also another student today was like "you like Suzumiya Harumi?"(name of an anime character) and I was like "yes, she is funny". After some teacher assisted translating I found out her older sister also likes it and wants to be my friend now. Heh so there I am thinking to myself "I want to be her friend too!" but kept it restrained, might have to follow up on it later. I later found out she is a little bit of an otaku. I may have mentioned it before but being an "otaku" over here is like being a kind of "maniac". Some of my students think I am one, especially when they find out I like video games, anime, have been to the game show AND akihabara in the same weekend. That's ok though, it gets a laugh out of my students and it is a good feeling.

Speaking of which the other day we were drawing groups to work on that project and I had to write the students names on the board as I heard them :) well my students loved that, watching a foreigner trying to write their names and misspelling them terribly. Even I was laughing when it was over they were in such an uproar, practically rolling on the floor. My Japanese is coming along slowly (would go better if I spent more time studying) and conversations are getting better all the time. They love seeing pictures of my family and I love seeing their reaction when I show them "this is half my family" and even go on to show Dale in the yearbook I brought along and comparing him to the family picture. Everyone loves his rock-star hair. They also tell me I look really cool in my grad photo so that is a good feeling :P I even had students stop me in the hallway, take a minute to piece together some English words, then suddenly blurt "You are very cool!" haha priceless. I just hope I don't let it go to my head. A group of students asked me repeatedly if I had a "honey" today. I knew they were trying hard to find the right word "girlfriend" and it was cute listening to them say "honey" over and over while giggling. Eventually they got it and I answered them; I said "honey" is technically correct but girlfriend is the more formal word for it. This teaching thing is great.

Well enjoy the photos, hopefully I have time to put captions on them later but for now at least you can see them. I am running a 30 KM marathon tomorrow (ya I'm crazy) have line dancing Saturday, house warming party later that day, maybe go to a costume party at a club after, then maybe go to a traditional Japanese story telling thing in town Sunday.

Busy, busy, busy...

"If I try to be like him, who will be like me?" -Yiddish proverb


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