Monday, March 3, 2008

Rocking the world for a quarter century

So I got this pickling spice for Christmas and had a batch of pickled eggs curing in my kitchen; I figured I should try making some of that “deviled eggs” after an email from Patty (my younger sister) gave me the idea. It was my first time but I think it turned out all right; I just pulled a recipe from the Internet like I always do. I was surprised I couldn’t find any dill spice though! I even made an emergency trip to my local grocery store in vain. Patty’s email had many cooking tips such as “preparing deviled egg’s filling in a ziplock bag”. I gave some out to my fellow co-workers at both schools with really good results. Everyone liked them and asked the same questions like “why do you call them deviled?” and “what is inside?” Maybe the funniest outtake was when I gave one to my Kocho (principal) at Ina Yogo school and he was like “oh is there vinegar in this? Ya it’s vinegar… oh it’s strong!” Then ran away :) I don’t know if he spat it out somewhere but it was kind of funny to see me make my boss run like that. Kyoto sensei (vice-principal) ate one at the same time to quite the opposite effect; he loved them.

Hmmm I think I had one class all week, and that class was just handing back final exams then playing games. The marks varied from 94% to 22% so I’m happy some people got good marks atleast; usually my tests are too hard. The rest of the time was spent studying Japanese, avoiding studying Japanese, visiting co-workers, and occasionally some students. Tuesday saw some really ugly weather, sleet snow/ice falling everywhere so I cancelled going to my Japanese lesson. I had to run a load of laundry to get dried though so I went out to brave the ugly weather conditions…

I think I was stopped at a light or something, and then it felt like there was a chunk of ice wedged in front of my tire. After about 10 meters, the car still shook violently, and I soon began to suspect that maybe my axel collapsed and was all bent? What would make the car go all wonky like this? Of course there is no where to pull over in Japan and the Laundromat wasn’t that much further so I pushed onward in the bad weather, shaking car, and lack of steering. Turns out I got a flat tire :( I don’t think I’ve ever got a flat like that before and it was the strangest thing; the tire seemed to just have popped off the rim and I hardly felt a thing; except for the weird after effects.

Well I should be happy I wasn’t going fast or anything dangerous like that, and it was lucky that I had a spare in the trunk; wedged in its hole from the many accidents and dents my predecessor put in the car. I am still just waiting until my car can’t legally be driven anymore which is either sometime this month or in May (I should probably look into that) then it’s off to me paying for it to get recycled (sucks eh?)

Wednesday was fun at my visit school Yayoi, as they had many students from Thailand come visit. After a rather strange introduction ceremony in the Gym where they sang and danced and stuff, they broke up into groups to experience different activities that were planned. I personally partook in Kadou (Japanese flower arrangement ceremony) along with Sadou (Japanese tea drinking ceremony). It’s tricky getting the Japanese names straight… (shodou = calligraphy, kyudo = archery…)

This was my first time doing Kadou and I found it fairly straightforward. You have flowers that you prune to your desired length, and then poke them into a spiked center in the middle of the flower vase; there is no dirt and hardly any mess. So yes, be as creative as you’d like and it usually looks very pretty when you’re finished. Of course I don’t believe much in flowers but I can see how others appreciate it.

Anyways, the English from those Thai students is amazing! They were from an agricultural school (usually means low English in Japan) but were practically fluent I thought; instructions were mostly given to them in English. I got to talk with many of them and many wanted their picture with me. At the end of the ceremonies, everyone would break out cards and started networking! I wonder if I should be making cards to give out too. So now I can potentially have like 30 or more penpals in Thailand, but I’m not sure I have time for that; I’m still having trouble keeping up with friends and family as it is. All of them had their own blog it seemed, and the cards varied from standard and boring to creative and crazy :)

The one student’s card was a picture of him trying to look badass, as there was a “wanted” sign above his picture. If you look in the picture over his shoulder though, it was captured in a bathroom as you could clearly see a toilet in the background. Another card was cut out of construction paper into a “Hello Kitty” shape and the information was writing out by hand. Along with giving cards, some gave out gifts like chocolates, good luck charms, and one student even gave me a rolled up set for calligraphy brushes. It looks very nice… but have no idea when I will use it :) Some students had pockets overflowing with cards and I tried accusing them of having too many boyfriends to much comedic results.

Thursday saw a couple students that were graduating that Saturday come visit me. It was strange like always seeing them out of their uniforms and in normal clothes as you get so used to it. Although the one outfit was even more strange than normal; really baggy jeans, held up by thick black suspenders and a ruffled shirt similar to something you’d see from those paintings of Shakespeare… the color scheme didn’t help much either but who am I to judge clothing? She was still cute

Anyways we got to talking about video games, anime and other fun stuff and I finally went on the internet to pull up an instant translator so that we could talk more. My Aunt Wendy emailed out a nice picture of my siblings and it was my desktop on my computer and proved to be an interesting conversation piece. I was able to explain how my sisters are in the navy and how Melissa’s boyfriend is going to Afghanistan in the military. They kept asking why he was going and I kept trying to explain and gesture with a gun and they were shocked! Also we all look similar apparently ;)

So both students are moving to Tokyo for university and I recently discovered that 40% of Japan’s population lives in the Tokyo metropolis area that includes 30-some towns. I told them to invite me to some of their university parties and the one said that we will have to go to Akihabara one day (geek/Otaku central!)

Friday saw us going on a trip up north to Nagano city for some JET teacher training. I enjoyed the conference again and am still surprised at how useful these sessions are. The second years don’t share that optimism though as they have done very similar things the year previous and have heard most of this stuff before. I got to talking with the one JET a lot and was surprised just how much negativity they were suffering. Whenever they could, they would bash Japan or tell stories about how they start doing little culturally incorrect things all the time (like wearing outdoor shoes inside)… to get revenge or something, I’m not sure. It’s too bad this has to happen, there’s a reason why they are hiring fewer JETs all the time other than budget.

For supper we went out to a Hawaiian restaurant and we all ate proper hamburgers. I got some kind of double patty monster that shocked and appalled some people that I was able to eat it as the grease dripped down my fingers and it was big enough to barely fit in both my hands; other people got things like chiliburgers and avocado burgers. It was great eating a proper hamburger again, but I might have accidentally started a bad reputation as a huge eater as I kept hearing after how surprised everyone was at how much I ate. I personally didn’t think it was too much food, maybe about a normal sized meal back home. Argh, these cultural differences from all sides are just too much some days!

During supper many stories were shared and one was about some kind of 7-storied porn shop in Akihabara. One floor is toys, the next dvds, etc. They went on to talk about all the weird stuff they saw like realistic dolls, jesus porn, and other weird stuff that would be better not to mention here. We wanted to stay late and party with everyone, but the last bus home left at 6:40 and some of us had our school’s graduation the next day.

So Saturday comes and it’s graduation time for many students. Unfortunately both my major schools have it on the same day so I had to pick one or the other; I chose Tatsuno because I’m there more often and I live in town. So I put my suit on and went to the gym for the celebration. Gyms aren’t really heated here, so they had some monstrous kerosene heaters with tiger-torch like flames burning inside them, shooting heat around the place; it didn’t help much though as I was still fairly cold. The ceremony itself was fairly different from ours back home and it started late as we all waited for the mayor to show up.

Although I couldn’t understand the majority of what was said or going on, this is what I pieced together. First, the students are marched in following their homeroom teacher from the past 3 years; we clapped the whole time. We sang what I can assume to be the national anthem, then the school’s song. Then they did roll call, similar to what we would do at the start of a class except much more formal. When your name was called you said “hai” and stood up; I noticed a couple students were missing. After roll call everyone sat down, then the class president went up one by one (5 total) and collected the graduation papers/diploma for their whole class. (I assume the class president handed out those diplomas later)

There were 4 students that got special recognition or something, as they seemed to get some kind of prize. After that, then the speeches began. This was easily the most difficult part to sit through, as again I couldn’t understand what was going on at all; the only part I understood was when they were saying today’s date. After numerous speeches by many people and even a couple students, I think it started to wrap up but things are pretty hazy at this point with all the fidgeting and trying-to-stay-awake that I was doing. I just know I had to get up at the end, rush to the back of the gym and join the other teachers as we clapped for the students as they walked out of the gym single file.

Well that’s pretty much a Japanese graduation. It finished before noon and I helped clean up the gym… so the students could start their club activities. Yes, right after school graduation, on a Saturday, the students still went and did their club activities. And today, Monday, 2 days after graduation, it’s a normal school day like nothing happened.

Different world for sure; graduation day for us was almost a symbol of the start of Summer holidays if I remember right; a vacation that seemed super long because you had no concept of time except vaguely trying to keep track of when Saturday would come because better cartoons would be on that morning… but that’s reaching pretty deep into the memory tanks; I remember when I figured out the clock enough to know around the time John (older brother) would get back from school and we could watch Duck Tails together.

This Saturday was a little extra special in that it was my birthday. I only told a few people, but information like that gets around pretty fast usually. I was given birthday greetings by a number of people and it was very nice; some students even said I looked like a prince in my suit so that was cool. Kubota even gave me a present, some Plum wine that is apparently a popular birthday present in Japan; I’ll have to keep that in mind.

So it was business as usual that afternoon, that night we went to that Fancy hotel in Tatsuno that I heard about for the first time when we traversed the park last weekend. It was really nice and I knew it was going to be a good night when it came time to drawing numbers to determine where you would sit and I picked “1”. (Lucky! Haha, I know I don’t really believe in luck but I’ll still play on it)

There was a table set up for the guests of honor, the homeroom teachers. They were presented flowers, gave speeches and even later in the night were asked to share amusing stories from the last 3 years. My birthday was announced and I was asked to lead the room into our night of drunken debauchery with a “kanpai!” (cheers). I was super nervous for the first time in a long time; probably because no one really wants the room to break into song for them and I had the suspicion it was a trap!

“um uh… mina, kanpai!” (cheers everyone) This got some chuckles and everyone kanpai-ed instead of singing so I was safe… for now :O (*dramatic music*)

So this night was very different in that for the first time I experienced an after party; one of the many stories I heard about before going to Japan but never experienced yet. After time ran out on this nomihodai (all you can drink), we went out to our second party, nijikai. A lot of people went to this one yet and it was a good time. My caretaker, Uchiyama sensei, helped me again to try and learn the names of people I work with and we talked about a number of things like the differences with graduation back home.

Later we went to the third party, sanjikai. There was karaoke at this one in a lounge format like back home and of the 6 songs sang that night I did 3 of them. One of them was a Japanese song too, much to everyone’s delight. I didn’t do very good of course, but I know the song from my favourite anime One Piece; so when things got bad I half closed my eyes and pretended I was (trying) to sing along to it like when I’m at home. This proved rather effective as I aced one of the choruses and everyone cheered loudly :)

The fourth party, yonjikai… the memory starts to get a little fuzzy at this point as we’ve been going hard for the last 6 hours, (I know we walked around a lot trying to find new places) but at the 5th party, gojikai, there were only 6 people left, myself included, and we were at some seedy snack bar I have told you about before. Right away one of our companions fell asleep, I had a large cup of pure sake in front of me, no more English teachers were in our group and there was soft lights and music playing; all those factors aren’t conductive for staying awake.

After we got out of that place I was pretty out of it, and maybe half our group went off to find the 6th party. I got a cab ride back home with some people and was dropped off nice and close to my house. All in all, that was one of the best party nights I’ve been on, also one of those most expensive! Good thing it was my birthday and my Kyoto sensei is such a nice guy; I am really glad I didn’t burn that bridge way back when over holidays and the witch-hunt. (pictured: my Kyoto, cool guy)

On Sunday I could have gone South for another party; someone was roasting a whole pig and needed people to come and help eat it, but I needed to relax and find my feet again so I didn’t go.

Well it was a good time again, but I can’t help but suspect a bit of depression the last week or two; simple things like getting out of bed or making supper has become a lot more difficult. Little factors like lack of sleep and boredom at work probably have a bit to do with it, but let’s not complicate the matter. For now I’ll just blame it on the weather, the Japanese studying (only memorized 85 new words last week), and the inevitable roller coaster that is life. We need to feel down every now and then to better appreciate when we are rolling high.

"A year from now you may wish you had started today" - Karen Lamb



Unknown said...

Have to say I was laughing pretty hard reading about your marathon 6 parties in a row. Sounds like a good time. Kudos for surviving another birthday,hopefully no one got lit on fire...

Tnoy said...

It was that good? :) whoops, I should have went into more detail. the blog was getting pretty long and I was getting pretty tired of writing at that point so it's a little brief; as 6 hours of partying would be.

Not to worry, looks like there will be atleast 3 more parties this month alone so I'm looking forward to it

Ya it's hard to top that flaming shot of yours there kid cowboy; kudos to you for raising the bar so high :)