It's been a while, never really posted last week as I felt there wasn't too much to write about. That and I was pretty busy again. Anyways the marathon went well! I ran 30Km in under 5 hours. By "run" I mean "mostly walked" and my hip still hurts a little bit but it's not like I'm hobbling quite as bad as I was for most of last week. I'm not sure what place I got in, but my long legs and my fast-walking-to-not-miss-the-train training had me mostly prepared :) Anything other than that that would be remotely close to being called "training" would be that time I practiced with the soccer team and volleyball team. Either way I'm in much better shape than I was in Canada and I'm mostly all over the place yet, no real "routine" per say. (picture: me at Disneyland Tokyo)
So ya, the marathon was neat, I inspired the students to try harder, or maybe just gave them the motivation when they heard the 100KG foreigner lumbering up behind them breathing heavily. The girls didn't have to run as far so when we reached the part in the road where the girls joined on the main route with the boys more people would slow down to chat. One pair of girls tried asking me how to say "crap" in English. I'm not sure if they were trying to learn swears, but it was funny to see them go through the motions of going to the bathroom and making the "poo" noise. Also the scenery was beautiful and I was starving having burnt how many thousands of calories in those 30 km. We even passed a dairy farm seemingly in the middle of town. Interesting at any rate. (Picture: me and Neal at TGS'07!)
If I haven't said it before those students really make the job fun, the days I don't see them drag on and can be stressful. For example I was teaching this one in class how to do an exercise. She understood, pulled back her face mask (if people have a cold they wear face-masks and go to work/school anyways, look like those "SARS" masks) looked me in the eye and said "can I?" I thought she was talking about the exercise I just told her how to do so I was like "uh... yes you can do the question here..." and she was like "can I... toilet?" Haha classic, the puppy dog eyes and face mask really sold it. Never had someone ask me for bathroom permission before and I couldn't say no. Then later that day another student just starts yelling out "Oh!!! Toni desu!" (it's tony) then after the crowd giggled themselves into a frenzy the one screamed "Toni I love you!" hahaha oh man, my caretaker was with me at the time and she started laughing as hard as me. I responded "uh-oh abunai!" (abunai=danger) and said "you're going to get me in trouble" haha. It's all good I suppose. (Picture: Me at TGS07 with Suzumiya Haruhi. The students go nuts if you mention her name, it's like crack or something. I tell other JETs to just mention her name, but if they are inclined then watch it too, it's pretty entertaining)
So Saturday I couldn't move very much from the jogging pain but managed to clean up enough for my housewarming later that night. In all there was about 6-8 people who showed up (all girls except Jake ;) and we had some potato sauce that I made (potato sauce is a family recipe for those interested) and it was very popular. Compliments ranged but one of the best ones was "I have never tasted anything like this before". I thought that was interesting, as if all foods have a taste category you can pile it into but this dish broke out into new territory. Of course the toughest critic is yourself so I was apologizing for any little thing that I thought didn't turn out right (lack of white vinegar for one).
After the party we went to a dance club about an hour away by train. I somehow busted a move with my broken body and it was a good time, many people were dressed up like these guys who dressed as the village people and did the YMCA for their costume contest winning victory dance. We were there until 4 in the morning then went to an all night restaurant to wait 2 hours for the first train to take us back home. Everyone was bushed and fell asleep. I somehow forced myself to stay awake but unfortunately didn't get a picture of everyone sleeping on the train, it really was a cool sight to see. Most of us went back to my place to catch 4 hours of sleep or so before heading home. Clean up went surprisingly well even though there was day old potato sauce involved. I like cooking and was glad to have the chance to cook for people again after (I guess over 3 months now, I was home alone mostly the last month in Regina). It's tough just cooking for yourself sometimes.
Another week of school, another week of Genki (energetic/healthy) students. I couldn't do club because my body was sore from the marathon even though I was invited back numerous times. One student has a college entrance test approaching and took my offer on eating lunch together in the teacher's lounge to work on their English. I'm trying to put myself out there all the time and it's catching on more and more it seems. I'm an awkward guy at the best of times so I'm sure this is a learning experience for me at any rate. They love seeing photos from home and one student even asked to see pictures from the game show! It was great because then we talked about video games for a while and I didn't feel so much like an outsider for a while. On that note, I remember the one JET compared himself to being a pet dog. Sure they are cute and do crazy things, but ultimately they aren't that important or relevant. Sometimes people just need to vent I guess but I know what he means sometimes. Like today when a student looked me in the eye, said something, then after a short awkward pause of me giving the deer-in-the-headlights look she mumbled "wakaranai" (doesn't understand) and turned away. Sucks really but what can you do.
So Friday comes around and there is a big JET conference. It was alright, learned problem solving stuff and teaching ideas. We all went for drinks and stuff after which was good too (all you can eat/drink for 2.5 hours for around $33) we emptied the beer fridge twice then later in the night we went to a Reggie bar. Beside the DJ booth there was none other than a Super Nintendo and a basket full of various games from chrono trigger to Japanese games I haven't hard of before. They were playing Mario Kart when I first saw them and later I sat down and played games we had back on the farm like teenage mutant ninja turtles, Super Mario 3 and Donkey Kong Country. Of course I looked like a nerd when everyone else was dancing and drinking but that's alright, I was starting to burn out from the long hours and constant busy schedule so I was taking it easy.
Speaking of being busy all the time, we did a home-stay that weekend. So we took a train in the morning to Kiso village, about an hour and a half west of me. The guy I stayed with was 89 years old and went on hiking trails with us, jumped out the back of a truck and did some jungle gym stuff. Pretty amazing I thought for his age. Also his wife was 50 or so and they were married for about 20 years which again was a little strange to me but maybe normal for Japanese culture, exactly the reason why we were on this stay in the first place. Let me tell you the houses we saw were just amazing, gave me all kinds of ideas for what I want to do when I build a house someday (might have to win the lottery first).
So first after a quick bite to eat we went and saw a nearby damn. They gave us a tour and and it was pretty neat, we even went inside the thing, like 100 meters underground down this crazy tunnel. I was almost getting a little claustrophobic after a bit, remembering bad movies like "daylight" where Silvester Stallone was stuck in an underground tunnel and was going to die... anyways it was really cool and the size boggles the mind. The scenery was just breathtaking.
After the tour we went back to town to a community center and met with people. We were shown different Japanese dances by different age groups and we showed them... the electric slide! I didn't know the dance before then, but I guess it is very similar to line dancing. Even some of the grandmas were dancing along and it was really neat to see. Later all the foreigners had to go on stage and do a dance with one of those rice field hats with flowers on them. It was a little tricky but I don't think I did too bad.
We split up and went to different houses for supper. One of the ladies we met was over 90 and was a midwife for over 54 years. She went on to tell us stories (in Japanese of course, I only got rough translations) like how she delivered maybe 1000 babies over the years and that she has been to Hawaii before during the war. I of course wanted to know more... but I sure don't know how to ask unfortunately.
We had an amazing supper and our hosts even played music and danced a bit for us. Again I was just blown away by how nice the house was. After we went back to our host's houses and chatted for a bit even though we were waking up early the next day. I unfortunately was way too tired while our 89 year old host was still mixing drinks and talking with us past midnight. I feel bad that we couldn't stay up later but oh man, I fell asleep 3 times in the car on the way to his place. I can't say I'm getting old because he almost 4 times my age and can probably kick my butt!
We went on a nature hike the next day after breakfast and again it was beautiful. After we went to a park for lunch and exchange of dances again. We did all kinds of various things that will show up in the pictures later. We exchanged omiyage (I gave a Canadian flag, coins and other tidbits) and went home for the day, I spent the rest of the day cleaning and stuff since I was gone all weekend again.
Speaking of photos, I hope everyone is enjoying the hundreds I posted last time. There is snow on the tops of the mountains now and things are still getting colder. They say you can watch the snow move it's way down more and more the mountain until it is at your house. Our host was saying his yard gets over a meter and a half, and it can reach -20 Celsius in the winter. I haven't really turned on my carpet half because I don't know how much power it sucks, half because I can muscle out the numb toes (and now fingers) until my hot shower before bed.
I got a comment on how it is surprising how an advanced country like Japan can be 50 years "behind". It is interesting to think about for sure, people here just live more simply. You could heat your house and such if you want but again the philosophy is heat the person and not the house. You have heated toilet seats here, heated tables (kotatsu) and other things so they're not exactly suffering and energy isn't as cheap here as back home. At the very least, maybe it will help humble me to know how my parents and grandparents used to live at least by a little bit. As a kid it was always hard to believe the stories on how brutal winter could be and I can see from that point of view how much of a jump the standard in living must be to have central heating and a warm house among other things.
Heh here I am talking about living simply when I rely on the train to go to work and have a car outside my house, not to mention my necessary weekly grocery trips. Some JETs here definitely take it a step further with some of the stuff they do and it is kind of tempting myself considering how much I even use my car and how much of a hassle it is to find parking or anything like that. The bottom line though, vehicles really do open up your world. (Picture: host Hojo-san doing the electric slide with some of the JETs. He is a pretty cool guy)
I need to go though, this post took 2 hours and I am exhausted. I got most of the stories in here. I almost missed my train this morning as I set my alarm at the wrong time. I work 6 days this week so Halloween will be tricky, what with a normal work day being on Saturday. I was starting to feel the effects of "burning out" last week so maybe one of these days I'll simply need to do nothing, go to bed early, and recharge the batteries. It doesn't help much either where much of the time spent on my bed is worrying whether I will finally fall through it. I will need to buy screws or nails soon to make more permanent fixes to it...
"The only person who cannot be helped is that person who blames others" -Carl Rogers