Monday, July 14, 2008

My Sunburn Senses are Tingling

I got a replacement car and the first thing I did was picked up groceries with it. This thing is old and technically less powerful but it does all I need to do, and a lot more than my old beater. It has fancy things like a working radio and air conditioning! I played songs from my mp3 player while I drove today and it was nice to hear coming from the speakers and not my headphones. The windows are manual still, but when you have AC, when would you ever need to use windows anyways unless you’re doing drive through burgers or something. Am I right fellas? High five. Oh and I filled it up for $40 when gas was over $1.80 a liter; almost makes me wonder what prices are back home.

I went to my handicapped school on Tuesday to spend time with the kids there. I had a brief class in the morning, then whatever I wanted to do for the rest of the day, which allowed me to lounge around and experience the happenings of the school. They had a “job” class where students would take up tasks like chopping firewood, feeding farm animals and sewing clothes. It was raining so we couldn’t chop wood; instead they made bags of burnt bamboo sticks for people to buy. I suppose it gives off a scent that people like and I’ve seen it before in various bathrooms.

Before long I was getting a big bored and went to see the farm animals. The group finished feeding early and went inside to eat corn on the cob. I had never had corn on the cob before that wasn’t dripping in butter and salt (as I had been taught) but it was actually tastier to eat it plain. I never knew corn had a natural sweetness like that, and non-artery clogging properties.

After another tasty student-made lunch in the cafeteria after dressing and washing like a surgeon (see past posts of my visits to Ina Yougou if you’re confused) I was hanging out in a mostly empty classroom as directed by a student showing me around. I talked with a couple of them for a little while, then later on a 2nd year came in escorted by a teacher. She was super shy, but extremely eager to talk if that makes sense; her level of English was surprising as well. After a couple standard questions, it got a little deeper than that. She started asking how long I’ll stay in Japan and then how tall I was for example. After I said about 185cm (right? 6’ 1”?) her eyes drifted off a bit.

Exasperated, she let out a low “takai daiiiissssuki…!” (roughly: I love tall guys)

It’s fun understanding stuff in Japanese! Either way, a bunch of flags went up right away; this was no normal girl. She was very obviously interested in me as the questions got more personal like “what kind of girls do you like”. It was even more amusing that the teacher she came in hand-in-hand with was pushing her on, giving her support ^_^ She was cute I guess, but she’s only in grade 11. Too young me thinks, and studenty.

When that interesting episode was over, I joined some students to play some kick-baseball in the gym. Imagine having an open gym, one of those large exercise balls for sit-ups, and the freedom to kick that little bugger as hard and far as you’d like. Ya, it was an amazing game. If it hit the back wall then hit the floor it was a home run, if it was caught though you were out. Oh and you didn’t have to tag someone if you didn’t want, you could throw the ball and brain them if that’s your thing. The one time I pitched it was a lot of fun too, as I’d put some crazy spins on the ball that would take effect right at the plate. I caught I line drive, then chucked it at a kid knocking him over for a double play. I slid in to get a base a couple times, tearing a hole in my dress pants. It was so much fun. When it was all over, I was elected MPP of the game (most powerful player).

For some reason when they were locking the gym they asked me if I knew was “sukebe” meant (dirty pervert). They were surprised I knew, and before I knew it they were calling me one! Haha I’m not sure why, I mean there was only one girl in the whole kick-baseball game and you could tell she didn’t want to be there. Either way I called everyone my “sukebe nakama” (perverted comrades)

Before you knew it, the day was over and it was time to be leaving. I wish I could visit that place more, even if some of the more rowdy/excited students give me some good knocks because they don’t know better than to hit people yet I guess. On the way out I visited my biggest fan, who was busily drawing pictures. This time she had the support of 2 teachers egging her on ^_^ She had made a picture for me, it was a dude with a checkered shirt, yellow pants, blond hair and blue eyes. I asked who the picture was of, and she said it was me.

Haha, well I guess she just has a thing for foreigners in general, as I was practically the opposite of the picture; either way it was really nice. I got her to sign it and got a picture together with her. She turned beat red and almost had a heart attack it seemed, it was so cute. She had to fan herself off just to keep a cool head. Before I left I said thank you again and shook her hand, which was even more appreciated than a picture together with my arm around her. The teachers were saying how she wouldn’t wash that hand again. Different culture perhaps? A learning (and pleasant) experience either way ^_^

We had another New Zealand exchange student come in to Tatsuno to home stay for 10 days or so. I got to try Japanese taiko drums and have fun, but she herself is a bit odd. I mean, during her welcome party she was busy sending texts on her cellphone, and in class I asked her to do something really simple and no stress with the students (colour a picture of anything), but she opted to read a book instead. What a waste of an overseas experience I think, I actually said that to her (in a nicer way) and she seemed really depressed for the rest of the class. I felt a little bad at first but quickly got over it. But that’s enough talking about her, time for the most excited part, Yayoi-Fes 2008!!!!!!

Yes, my school Yayoi had its school festival this weekend; it is still going on as I type actually, as it is a Sun-Mon thing (I’ll be surprised if I can post this today, you’ll see why). Some student bands are playing right now and my sunburns are exacting their hate on my nerves, but let’s start over.

For the last couple weeks the students had all been working hard within each of their individual classes, and I had been working extra classes as well to help free up time for the teachers here. I saw interesting things like dance practices, weird displays popping up in rooms, and injuries showing up on students working all kinds of crazy hours. One student did so much painting and/or writing, her wrist was in a sling for a week or two; another was in a cast for breaking her ankle during dance practice. When I showed up Saturday morning it all seemed to come together. This school festival is an absolutely amazing experience on a scale I have never seen by students ever.

This festival has it all: food, action figures, dancing, cosplay, haunted houses, band concerts, competitions, shops, board and video games, pictures and monstrous displays just to name a few. For example there is a mock statue of liberty almost 2 stories high near the yard, and a space shuttle at the front gate when you come in. I have been extremely busy the last 2 days just going around and trying to see everything, and still missed out on stuff. This event is open to the public too so I got a chance to see other students from other school, and students that had graduated the year before.

Either way it’s fun to walk around and feel like a celebrity as I tend to draw smiles and excitement wherever I go. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with me being crazy and waving wildly, but either way so many students become ecstatic to have me help out. I again surprised myself with my level of Japanese and more words are sticking easier than before as I’m learning to get around my own mental roadblocks that involve forgetting everything.

Over the last 2 days I think I ate most of the food they had to offer, which was no small feat! Yakisoba, takoyaki, fried corn, Okinawa udon, KFC, popcorn, ice cream, frank fruit, shaved ice, hamburgers, chocolate dipped bananas and various candies/sweets. I missed out on burgers and doughnuts and other treats I’m sure, but I’m only one man! They were so excited to have me eat their food, and sometimes I would help advertise with them in Japanese.

So much happened and much fun was had, I can only tell you scattered stories at best; which sums up the weekend nicely. One class had a large board game on the floor and made huge dice to throw around. When they found out I hadn’t played because of my Japanese ability, before I knew it I had 3 personal tutors follow me around in my very own game! I’d roll, advance, and do things that the board asked. Instructions/punishments would be like “act like a monkey” or “introduce yourself in English” (oh no!). It is so awesome seeing them work hard together, stamp their feet and get super excited just trying to communicate with me on a basic level. When a square was too hard for them… they would pause then give out a big “safe!” and do the baseball ump gesture. When I crossed the finished line they would all clap and cheer for me. When I pulled a prize at the end they all jumped up and down excitedly that I drew a big lucky one. There is no more emphasis that I can put on just how cute and surreal a day in the life with these wonderful kids seems to be.

I got well over 300 photos, and many times when they saw me stalking around with my camera (not to subtly of course) most times they would draw me into the picture with them. After a couple hundred peace signs with the fingers I started doing different poses, much to their appreciation. I was delighted how many students were wearing summer kimonos (yukatas) and those were all nice to see as well. I was surprised to see cosplay and I absolutely freaked the one out when I called out her character’s name. I guess otakus know how to spot their own and be wary ^_^ and to spot “sukebe”.

I guess there was a parade when the festival started, but it was mostly a bunch of people going on stage and talking about stuff. When that was finished everyone released their balloons and it looked awesome seeing hundreds of balloons float up and off into the atmosphere. Some classrooms were labyrinths, some were ‘ocean paradises’ where I bought a bracelet, some were full of carnival games like fishing and ring toss, some were flower displays, some had art, one was a gaming room on laptops with student-made games. Bands played from students doing rap, to mom’s favourite mandolin giving an hour performance of songs I hadn’t heard them play before. I’m almost getting a little dizzy trying to recall the flurry of events from the last 48 hours, and the grand finale has yet to happen tonight!

Today the school was closed to the public but the festivities continued. They did different kinds of competitions against other classes like jump-rope and tug of war. Then they did a long ‘clean up’ session where everything disposable from the festival was dragged to the center of the soccer field… and set ablaze. After a lengthy rewards and whatever they were talking about (I phase out quick when I don’t understand/care) the archery club lined up, lit their arrows, and shot into the pile of debris in the middle of the field. Before long it was burning like mad and some bands/dancers did their thing again. When it died down some, they danced a huge circle around it like the practiced the night before. Either way it looked pretty cool.

There really was a lot of crying at the end, most of it I didn’t know why, but some 3rd years were crying as I guess it was their last performance ever. After they would (have to?) retire for whatever reason and they were quite sad you could see. It must be tough to quit something you’ve done every single day for hours for how many years… only a couple months into the school year (we just finished the first term!) Some girls were trying to give finishing speeches but they couldn’t say anything because they were crying so hard. It was sad for the first couple minutes, but my level of boredom was compiling on top the layer of “I don’t understand”. Either way, it ended somehow and there were fireworks to finish the day off.

Before that though, they hooked up hoses to the swimming pool (each high school has one dontcha know) and hosed sprayed water for a couple hours on the soccer field near the fire. I wanted to join them, but the little rocks looked like sandpaper to me at this point, with my blazing red sensitive skin and inability to shed mortal tears from my godly frame. I’ll have to do it next weekend when Tatsuno has its festival! That being said, you might have to wait until Tuesday to read about it. Anyways, the students ran around in the mud having all kinds of fun for hours.

It’s almost weird to say this, but my students gave me a lot of pride this weekend. It was amazing to see them come together and do stuff like this. If only I had a fraction of this kind of good time when I was in school. Hindsight is 20/20 though right? If I could do it again, I would spend a year as an exchange student somewhere. During the “sexiest person in the grade” awards, the lone exchange student from Sweden was number one. That stuff must be pretty good for the self-esteem at that age. Haha I’m just rambling now, it’s late and I’m tired. Now to figure which of the hundreds of photos to post on here…

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try." -Beverly Sills



Anonymous said...

"When would you ever need to use windows anyways unless you’re doing drive through burgers or something"

Gotta love the good old 69 cent cheeseburger promotion on Sundays.. buying 10 of them then chucking the rest at cars. (Where's that Alex fella when you need him.)

Tnoy said...

I fondly remember and miss those cheeseburger days, although I don't remember chucking them at cars.

I do remember we tried eating one in one bite and it was nearly impossible :) Almost choked on it.

McDonalds is fairly different here, aside from the weird menu options like shrimp and mayo burgers (can't remember, but I wouldn't be surprised)

Tnoy said...
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