Ah a well-earned week away from the computer, but time again to feed the beast; it hungers on literature. So far everything is looking ok for my cell phone (I hope) but with the language barriers it’s hard to say how much information is being withheld from me and for good reason (it took 15 minutes to explain to me how the loner phone was being borrowed, even though I understood right away). Convincing someone to understand that you understand is hard to understand unless you’ve tried, understand?
My Australian friend Ben (Jan 26th was Australia day) was telling me how when the explorers of the Captain Cook crew came and asked a local “what is that strange animal there?” The local looked at him, looked where he was pointing, then looked back and said in his local language “I don’t understand.” That just happened to sound like “Kangaroo” and they’ve been called that ever since.
So yes, now I have a loner phone and nobody’s number or email yet. This phone is a lot more cumbersome and since it’s temporary I won’t take the time to figure it out, nor put information on it to be lost again, which kind of sucks because I got 3 phone calls from someone I probably know although it just looks like a somewhat random 12 digits being displayed, I tried dialing it earlier to no avail, I’ll try again later. I am just hoping I don’t get bad news about the tequila soaked one in for repairs. Maybe 2 days later I got an email on my cell phone from the provider, I couldn’t understand it since it was in Japanese but I COULD understand the “25,000¥” in the message (maybe $250). I started stressing out but later on it was translated to me that it was some sort of promotion; for every friend you recommend to the provider you get 5,000 yen in gift certificates up to 25,000. Never before has an advertisement caused me so much stress but water off the back right?
One of the more amusing student related stories was during a warm up game in an English class. “Boggle” is good to play; you make a 4x4 grid and get students to pick random letters. Using those 16 letters they have 3 minutes to make as many words as they can, but I only go around and ask for their biggest word, the biggest in the class being the winner. It helps with vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling; quick and easy. Anyways this particular class I don’t think they understood the “3 minutes only” and some had their English-Japanese dictionaries out hunting for words even after time was up. I wasn’t going to stress about it that day, so the one student was hunting and gave me his biggest word, “sodomistic.” (…form of sodomy?)
Wow, funny thing was my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) knew that word too and we both kind blushed for a while, not quite sure what to say and mostly hoping the student didn’t know what it meant, then quickly moved on in case other students asked for its definition. Thinking about it now, since it was a translation dictionary you’d think he would look over and see what it meant. Kinda reminds me of the time when Neal (JET in Inakita) asked his students what they did over summer holidays and the one replied “I had sex with my girlfriend everyday.” Straight faced of course, and of course everyone acted like nothing out of the ordinary just happened.
I suppose we do similar things back. One JET was asking for directions and threw in a cuss word (ye olde “f-bomb”) amidst a bunch of other well-formed Japanese words. We got directions and everything was peachy as if nothing were astray. What a world eh?
Things are winding down for my 3rd years at Tatsuno now too, they just wrote a final I made for them. I am continually disappointed, I keep thinking I’m making tests easier but more people keep failing; and with it being a final exam that’s not cool at all. One teacher reassured me that the students didn’t study so it’s not my fault. That was actually confirmed to me that morning by more than one of them as they sat around the stove in the middle of the classroom warming up; as is the pre-class ritual with many rooms here. Stepping out into the hallway is like stepping outside minus the wind, a temperature of which lately hovers around the minus 5 mark at night. But ya, I guess the second years have to write up a graduation thesis… for high school. I don’t remember if I even had to do that for university; that sounds like something you’d do for your masters or Doctrines.
Well enough of that, time for the weekend right? Did I go to Tokyo? Play video games? Snorkel off the coast of China? (Shakes magic 8-ball…) 3-day ski trip up North? Alright, let’s roll with that. **Spoiler alert! Next weekend is a Mardi-Gras party. End spoiler.**
After school Friday, Jake Patricia Anita and I took Patty’s car (dubbed tubby), put our junk in her trunk and rode her for over an hour straight, way up north to the same place as the fire festival, Nozawa Onsen. We got there, got settled in and settled up with expenses. I figured it was kind of late to hit the slopes even though it would have been beautiful night runs as I wanted to save my legs for the upcoming 2 day punishment they would soon hate me for; for the rest of the week. Other people shared my sentiment and we went outside to play in the snow.” ☺
I started by trying to make a snowman, I really did. But I have never seen so much powder like that before. Just outside of the hotel I would sink in powder up to my waist, any attempts to make a snowman would crumble faster than a pile of fine white sand. Things quickly deteriorated though, as I scrunched some powder up with much effort, projected my spherical bane and watched it explode beautifully on an unexpected target; a death knell for peace and co-operation and a clear act of war.
It was like bringing fire to a dry forest, everyone separated immediately seeking cover and securing their nearest plot of ammunition, desperately trying to reload and retaliate; not just on me but one another. Brother turned against brother, mother against child. You couldn’t turn to attack your enemy without being struck from behind, and it wasn’t long before the ranged attacks turned to melee. People were picked up and thrown into vats of powder; I was run down and tackled from behind, trying to lose my pursuer in my waist-deep constraints. Patricia was tag teamed; one person grabbing her arms and the other her legs as she was swung and lobbed into the thick of the cold. Screams of anguish rang out deep and loud, far into the dark Japanese night (laughter).
So much so that we were told to move from the hotel on four separate occasions, 3 of which fell on deaf ears (mine at least). We understood the dire predicament and an armistice was quickly and silently agreed upon as we went off to search for new Earth to scorch with our flames of war. Luckily I’m usually trailing behind groups most times, as I walk too fast to be in the front. It gave me ample time to build my war machine and strike my adversaries unaware! At least 3 or 4 times I would break up the shaky truce as the scene from earlier would quickly be revived and relived. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it as we scorched the earth countless times, in half an hour hardly making it ½ a block away from ground zero.
A common theme was their fear for me, the Canadian. I crafted fierce weapons of snow with my big strong Canadian hands and propelled my might with ferocious accuracy. But alas, even with their combined fear and knowledge of their big threat from the cold white north, they couldn’t overcome their fear of each other and I continued to dominate. Whenever they would gang up and try to topple me from my throne of terror they would always quickly turn on each other. Foolish mortals, Muhahaha ☺
Many people’s snowballs were rather weak in nature. The powder proving too unstable in their attempts to carve weapons. In time I showed my benevolence as their great ruler and gave them snowballs to fight their enemies with; everyone loved them. One of the best parts of the night though was me getting body slammed by Jake, my feisty neighbor to the south. We posed for my camera as I was struck and lay about a foot deep in snow. After the picture Noboru tried to help me up. He gave me his left hand and I gave him my right. “No dude, other hand” he says just before my wet snowy glove slipped out of his and I fell…
I hit the pile I was just on but this time it gave out; rocked to its foundations by the titanic clash of mighty warriors moments earlier. I fell down a hole over a meter deep and landed on a pile of rocks on my back. In Japan it is common to have water running down drainages running along side roads, in this town especially as people had water running down their driveway constantly to clear the snow. So there I was, maybe a meter and a half down a hole on my back with water running over me and smelling a little ripe.
Noboru called over the others to help “give me your hand man, give me your hand!” a sense of urgency in his voice. “Take a picture! Take a picture!” I reply, laughing all the while. I got out soon after and my feet were soaked through the shoes through my socks and so on. The scene we just witnessed scarred us all and the fun slowly came to a stop as we made our way back to dry off, each of us learning an important lesson about war (Canada rules, whoo!). Our hotel had a dry room for ski gear, where I left a bunch of my stuff in that night to dry off.
The next day we started off a little early, making sure to get the free breakfast before 9. Renting gear for the next 2 days was a little expensive ($50) and I again contemplated buying my own gear like the majority of JETs I know in Nagano; as it stands I still don’t think I’ll get any. It snowed for most of the Saturday and Sunday that we were there and it’s hard to imagine how difficult it would be to ski without the goggles that I rented, even though at times my visibility was easily cut in half when I put those things on. A big problem when you are in winter wonderland.
I’ve never seen a place so white and soft, it was so surreal and words fail me just how beautiful it was. There were big fat snow flakes slowly falling at all times while your skis plowed through centimeters of the stuff on the well run courses. We went on other courses where there were fewer people and I witnessed the most unbelievable thing over and over again.
There was power, so deep. As I skied through it, it easily covered my knees. I have never seen anything like that, even at the beach, it was like there was nothing there. I remember thinking to myself, “how am I even moving right now?” You couldn’t see the ground you just knew you were in something deep and you were cutting through it like… a knife through liquid? I can’t even compare it to anything, as I’ve never seen anything like that (can you feel me reaching for words? Ya it’s tough). When I looked over at people beside me, because the snow was bouncing up and off of them it was like watching only the top part of someone’s body skate along a sea of powdery white snow. I managed to snag a little bit of a video of the powder and hope to post it later, some of the scenes were so beautiful it’s hard to illustrate… just white everywhere you looked save for sparse pieces of brown where fragments of trees weren’t yet covered.
Some people had some crazy adventures; taking jumps they didn’t see then spending the next 15 minutes digging themselves out. Ben said a couple times he had to take off his snowboard and paddle on it like a surf board as he was too heavy for the power to even crawl out. I was in a similar situation, I had to dig my ski out and somehow balance on the other ski while trying to put it back on as I couldn’t put any weight on my foot.
The signs on the hill were fairly entertaining like “danger crashing into a tree” and my favourite “Never Come back Happen a disaster” for a roped-off area. Snow in Japan just feels a lot different than back home too as most of the time there is hardly any wind and it’s just large soft flakes falling down. Also the students shovel the snow in their skirts, which is amusing to me. A fellow JET was saying his students even shoveled their baseball field so they could still practice, that sport is pretty popular here.
But ya, I had an awesome time. It got a little pricey and I’m maybe done skiing for the year but it was worth it. I’m back at work today with sore calves from the skiing and sore forearms from the snowballs (I’m no Popeye) and a little tired as my head froze most of the night. When I finally put a blanket over top of it I got some decent sleep but it was practically time to get up by then. I missed my train again to Yayoi but luckily it’s like the one time of the day another train runs like 20 minutes later instead of an hour later so I’m not TOO late… it’s so hard to get out of bed in such a cold house, but I guess I’m not really a morning person in the first place. Oh ya and we made a snowman before we left! ☺ I had such a hard time picking pictures to post on this main page as I love so many of them, be sure to check out my photo bucket, I put the fire festival and ski trip in the same folder as they’re both from Nozawa Onsen this month, our watch the You Tube videos from the mountain.
"A book is a gift you can open again and again." -Garrison Keillor