Monday, June 16, 2008

Baby, you make my Earth move

Thursday I think was yet another day (ho-hum cliché) and suddenly the Earth growled angrily at me again. Much longer and stronger this time, it started with a dull grumble that you could instinctively tell was coming from deep underground, which quickly accelerated into a mighty roar, as you could almost see a ripple tear across the buildings. I was in my office near the library this time, and I watched the bookshelves rock heavily. The books on said shelves almost tipped and fell out; I’m not sure how they did not given the impossible angles they seemed to balance on at various times. As I thought of diving under my desk, it skidded across the floor, bumping against my legs a couple times and at different points of contact. I then took my cues from the Librarian, Inoue Sensei. She mostly braced herself on the desk (which was almost sliding across the floor) and took the wait-and-see approach. The lights flickered; going out for a second maybe then all was eerie quiet.

“Wait for it” I though, as before long, the screams of hundreds of students filled the air. I assessed the immediate situation but all was good minus the panic in the air. Inoue Sensei calmly told me with a smile and her little English: “three”. Sure enough when the reports came in, our area was about a 3, this time the center of the earthquake being about a 45-minute drive away, where they had a 4. While stronger and longer, it was much easier to handle this time; first time is always the scariest I guess. I also heard from other people we had another Earthquake but I don’t think I felt that one; perhaps I was sleeping.

Well that was fun, makes for a good story too I think. This is something I would recommend anyone experiencing as it is unlike anything else. As one person put it, “It reminds you just how little we are on the bigger scale.” Or something. One way or another, you will never see the Earth move like that back home.

Hmmm as for the rest of the week, I couldn’t get my cell phone yet again on Monday as the hour and a half of poor communication saw the computer system shut down for the day. On Thursday I finally got my 3rd phone and I’m still figuring it out; everyone is super jealous of me for having predictive text in English (practically unheard of here) but I am still trying to figure out how to make the damn thing not ring; until then I better not take it into class with me. After I got my phone Thursday, A bunch of people in our block went to Tonya’s for a poker night. Interest waned quickly, especially when tasty homemade tacos were introduced into the mix.

On Tuesday (jumping around, ah well) Neal invited a bunch of people to his English class for a friendly, casual conversation (with free snacks!). In the next 4 weeks, there are student teachers at schools doing internships for university. That’s right, in what would be a 6-month internship in Canada, they jam it into 4 weeks here. Either way, I invited our intern, Yuri, out and we had homemade sushi, milk fresh from a cow, and other tasty treats. The milk was a little strange, as the top solidified into a thick skin I had to fish out of my mouth (bleh!). Either way it was an enjoyable evening meeting and talking with new people, and of Neal and I poking fun out of each other for everyone, saying who’s the bigger otaku and who is more dangerous. My case wasn’t helped much though as Neal returned a 5-piece anime toy set to me that night. ^_^

There is a new private teacher here that replaced Sandro from Quebec; she is from Alberta. She was talking about how Alberta has -45 winters, and I played the “last year we hit -52” card. Glad I missed out on that! It would have sucked waiting 10 minutes for the bus in that weather.

Wednesday saw half classes as the school was invited to watch a performance at an arts center. I was lucky for Yuri to sit beside me and translate, as even the students were confused what was going on. The play was (over?) 2 hours long, and it was about a couple of girls wanting to take suicide as they were the only survivors in a bus accident, in which all their classmates died. Before they were to kill themselves though, they had to do a “list” of things, which happened to be made from what each person in their class wanted to do in their lives. Things on the list ranged from burning the school, stealing money, stabbing animals………..

It wasn’t a very happy play, although they tried to make it cute or whatever when everyone came out on stage in sheep suits and they tried to catch one… to later attempt to jab a knife into it. Long story short after 1 year they completed the list and both jumped off a cliff into the ocean to kill themselves at the end.

I know you’re thinking, “what the hell” and I am still thinking that. I don’t know if they survived or not as the last 2 minutes was some montage that made no sense (there was no talking). Either they crawled out of the ocean alive, or they crawled out of the clouds into heaven, as all their dead friends were there waiting for them. Then they did some quick cosplay with some of the other actors (like policeman and teacher) wearing their uniforms (does this mean they lived on?) and then they all bowed and it was over.


Again I was lucky Yuri was beside me, as I wouldn’t have known about this “list” and other things. Many people fell asleep during the play and I did too at one point, only to be woken up with a quick translation of what was going on. Ah well, better than sitting at the desk at work I guess; Yuri is really cool too.

On Friday night Jake, Patricia, some of their Japanese friends and I went to the big park in Tatsuno (which I didn’t know about before) to get an early glimpse of the fireflies! Our little town’s one big event of the year is quickly approaching and the point of this outing was to beat the crowds. There weren’t very many out that night and I couldn’t get any good pictures; but it was still cool to see. Back home fireflies are like a quick burst of light, where here they start off dim, slowly illuminate brighter and brighter, apex, and then slowly fade back into the pitch of night. The whole thing lasted 10 seconds or longer it seemed; pretty neat stuff.

I quickly got bored of the outing though, and spent my time staring up at the stars in the sky. There was only a half moon, but its brilliance was amazing to see. You don’t get a good site like that in a city and it brought back memories of sky gazing back on the farm; minus the aurora, which everyone loves and talks about here, and the cold you always got on clear nights. I’m contemplating getting a telescope yet again, and saw a rather impressive one at a second hand shop on the weekend. I’m kinda reluctant to spend $100 on something I won’t use much, can’t take home with me, and has very little re-sell value.

This was my first time at a second hand shop in Japan finally and it was kinda neat. I didn’t need anything although I was looking out for a couch. My new (one town away) neighbor Shane showed the place to me after he told me how he got his very nice couch for like $20. After saying he had no way of getting it home they gave him an option. Either pay to have it delivered, or just borrow their truck and take it home yourself.

Ya I could hardly believe it either when he told me that. Without having to worry about gas or anything like that, he was able to use the company’s truck for an hour to hall this thing home; which is what he did. I love how people trust each other here.

At the end of the day I didn’t get a couch, as the selection was rather bad. But I had a great time at Shane’s that night where I did something really nerdy for the first time: I played Dungeons and Dragons.

I know this is a new level of nerdiness, but given how this game basically made video games, as we know them, I figured it is something I should try. After a couple weeks of coordinating and other things that unfortunately make D&D less popular than video games, we managed to get together on Saturday night. I was there a couple hours early to try and figure out what the heck was going on and to roll my first character: a young hot Paladin babe named “Tnoy”. (pictured: the apex of my nerdiness, waiting 18 hours in line for a launch PS3)

Unknown to me, I quickly became “that guy” to the crowd. It sucks to know sometimes when I think I might be doing something a tad amusing or clever, I quickly fall into some kind of tired stereotype. Ah well, this is how we learn; as I used my characters high charisma to flirt with Jessie’s indifferent barbarian much to his un-amusement. I was having a hoot though.

We had a battle too! A bunch of wolves attacked us and I ran in with my morning star. The pace was a bit slow to me, so I yelled to the barbarian in the crowd to quickly kill something so that he may bath in the blood of his enemies. Everyone mistook it as something my character said and were confused about my Paladin status; one being of righteousness and good, not blood baths.

Basically it boils down to how I want my character to be and become. Since I didn’t know what I was doing I went along with advice to explain my ‘outsider’ status and why I joined the church and its army of Paladins. My back-story ended up being how my village was raided at a young age and I don’t know what happened to my family. I was rescued from slavery by a squad of Paladins and was adopted into the church.

The Dungeon Master loved this back-story, as I have a feeling he’ll work my ‘long-lost’ parents into the story in the future. And we explained my killer appetite to childhood trauma filled with blood and war; something the DM also loved, as he will give my character psychotic flashbacks.

Heh maybe that’s enough talking about D&D, but ya it was neat to finally play for the first time. I think I did so-so, and I have to develop my character further in my mind for when we play again in 2 weeks (logistics suck; one person could only play via skype and webcam as she lives 3-4 hours away and many times couldn’t hear what was going on because of the quiet microphone). The DM has prepared a rather elaborate story which flies over my head at times as I’m largely taking cues from the other veterans at the table for whatever I’m suppose to do.

We played until 1 in the morning, and I had to stay the night as the last train home left 2 hours earlier. This made me late to get home the next day on Sunday, to which my neighbors invited me over for a steak party. When I finally remembered (as I was biking back home from the station), I went as fast as I could. I was well over an hour late and they were cleaning the table when I arrived. They still invited me in and we had a pleasant visit for… possibly 4 hours or more. The food was amazing and I ate a lot. The father of the house is a mechanical engineer working in Tatsuno designing airbrakes for jet engines, which I found pretty cool. His English was the best so we maybe talked the most. I tried talking with his cute kids but they were really shy. We finished 2 bottles of wine and some special brandy and it was after 6 or so already at this point. I took my leave and hope to meet up with them another day; I had a great time. Perhaps I should throw a BBQ party…

It has been really hot lately so I’ve gone with a buzzcut. It has been warmly receieved much to my surprise, and my students voted I should start shaving my head! Soon after though, they also voted that once my head is shaved, I should use a marker and put a big happy face on it, so every time I bow they can se it. I also had an interesting exchange with some girl students before I left work today. They wanted to know how to say poop in English, and also what a Japanese singer, “pornographic” the name meant. Heh it was really funny; I got quite a few questions today about any possible girlfriend/sweetheart/partner/wife from all kinds of students. All of them told me to “fuaito!” (fight!) and to try hard. Even if their minds are in the gutter, atleast their hearts are in the right place. ^_^

"Your only limitations are those you set up in your mind, or permit others to set up for you." -Og Mandino



Vern said...

WHOA, an earthquake is quite an experience for a prairie kid - serious. I hope your dad wasn't too worried for your sake. But, I guess that is what parents' job is.

Patricia said...

Haha - I love the smiley face on the head idea! Your kids are hilarious!
I am glad you survived the earthquake! Ciao Tony!