I got a shock to the system last week. Not only did they cancel three of my classes, but I was also getting a days holiday for working a Saturday! Things really are different this year, as the witch-hunt of last year is still fresh in my mind. (I asked for time off, and they asked me for the names and schools of people wanting to take the same holiday, called their schools, starting fires, and I became a very unpopular new-person in no time if you don’t remember the story). This holiday will be useful for an upcoming trip that I am planning… Either way, I guess they had to twist my vice principle’s arm a bit to let me go, as I’m super valuable apparently. I should ask again to see my performance review; it’s got to be around somewhere.
So instead of classes Friday, I hopped on a bus full of kids and other 6 other teachers and we headed to Takato for English Camp. This hill is magnetic or something, so cell phones don’t work there. Rumors have it, hippies live up in the hills doing drugs and selling their magnetic/healing water for monies or something. Either way, it was fun watching the students walk around like the living dead with their cell phones open, searching in vain for a signal. I wonder how they’d survive a week without them. But hey, one less distraction right?
The theme was the Olympics, and 6 of the teachers got to represent a Country. I was assigned South Africa! Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of time Thursday studying up on the place. Neal was a good help with links and a flag for reference. The first event was having the students ask us questions about our country and finding their ALT leader. My group accidentally saw my hidden paper, and knew to run to me however, and we snagged a gold medal right away. Good thing too, because their question was “have you been to Africa?” Personally I haven’t, although the country I’m representing is the only country in Africa at the event. They were confused, but knew it was me in the end.
We made flags and posters and other things. There were 5 students on team South Africa, two were really strong, two were shy, and one was maybe the most miserable student/human I’ve had the misfortune of having to be around. Our group suffered in a number of events because she would screw around or go sit in the corner, leaving my now-group-of-four compete in team events against up to 7 people. I knew she could speak well and was a fairly normal girl, but should you ever start asking her questions or something, she acted like she had down syndrome and only spoke Japanese; and that was if you even got a response out of her and not a moody look of death. Makes me wonder why they go to these optional events, but you don’t need to hear about that waste of space anymore.
My two strong students were amazing. Rose was from China and for her it was easier to speak English than Japanese so she didn’t get squirted much (we had water guns to punish people speaking Japanese), and Yukina was a crazy fun girl. When I asked her why she was studying, she said it was to marry a foreigner. Heh, comedy wasn’t lost on her, she took the initiative to tell jokes in English while every other student in the room stuck to their scripts. But ya, from Rose I found out more information about a free English class Monday nights in Okaya; I should start going as my Tuesday night classes aren’t too helpful.
We had lots of fun with the games. The one teacher, Kuni-chan, dressed up in a toga and was “the spirit of the Olympics” and carried around a painted broom meant to be a torch. It was great too, because he would openly say things like “give me whiskey for a gold medal” and at lunch he would purposely say, “may I shit here” instead of sit, as is the way of Japanese pronunciation. Then he’s go through the motions quickly in front of confused students. Haha classy guy, I can’t get enough of his antics. My favourite Kuni-chan moments of the weekend were when we all had some drinks Friday night and were doing poor magic tricks.
Before the drinking though, we dragged the students out for a campfire and music. The one student was asked to start the fire, and was given a small roll of paper. When it came time to light the paper however, you’d think we were dumping gas all over her the way she freaked out. I’ve never seen someone so scared of a match a foot away from their hand. Some people really, really are sheltered here.
We sang songs and roasted marshmallows. The marshmallows went out too early though, and the sticks to cook them on were too short. This led to lots of people, including me, trying to get close and quickly burning their hand from the intense heat. That miserable girl wasn’t around, so I taught the 4 good students how to make shmores. Naturally, they were a big hit! It’s always great watching students eat something for the first time that you practically grew up with; you gotta love watching their eyes get big and having them shout out “oishii!” (delicious) to the nearest person to them, then do a little dance. I also reminded everyone that English tastes like Candy, and gave out treats to those speaking. We had our water guns on hand though to punish the Japanese speaking; good times.
We played dodge ball (taught them rules from the movie), we played Frisbee (some played ultimate), we played Olympic charades, twister, Simon says, and other games. It was a lot of fun. Out of the 3 countries we ended up taking bronze for team South Africa.
Our bus dropped John (from Shiojiri) and I off near Suwa Lake so we could attend the huge fireworks show. We had a couple hours to wait, but we were tired and snuck in naps so it’s all good. Lots of new JETs came out, some more approachable than others. Some were content talking about the bottle of Wild Turkey they killed the night before, how hung over they were right now, and how they had other parties to go to that night. Yup, I definitely won’t spend nearly as much time around JETs this year.
With the jerks though, there seem to be some good people that came over; people who would attend a video game party should I throw one. I think that boat might have sailed though; personally I haven’t really played any games for well over a month now; it regrettably got cut along with most things due to “lack of time”. I weep that this day finally came to one of my favourite hobbies, but in time I will pick up a controller again and relive my seemingly lost passion. My life just has other, more pressing priorities now, and the most attention I can give that hobby now is just keeping fresh with news on some select sites when I can. That being said, The Tokyo Game Show will be on Oct 11-12 this year, and I recruited a number of people to go. It will be glorious.
The firework show was fun and pretty, even if we had way too many people on our tarp and I was getting pains. It went on for hours again, and it’s always fun to feel the kick of the shockwave hit you in the chest; massive explosions for sure. We tried to leave a bit early, but still got caught up in the rush for the train and had to wait for a while. While we waited, it started to pour cats and dogs. It was a pretty rough feeling, even if I had an umbrella because people packed so closely you had the run off from other people’s umbrellas running under yours and down your back. Very unpleasant, but I escaped with minimal damage, minus losing some keepsakes like my English club drawing of the members I posted a while back; the ink cleanly came off the paper! I’m glad I got a picture of it atleast.
On Sunday there was a mud soccer event going on. I was too late to sign up and participate, and I was even later in showing up. I ended up missing the action but caught the closing ceremony. I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time like Junko and Patricia. Junko hopes to quit her job next year to visit my mom in Canada, so that’s exciting. It might look bad though if she visits before I do... on that note I might be going to Hong Kong soon.
Anyways, I drove an hour out to the event(It's surprisingly therapeutic to me to just drive at a speed over 40 and crank some music), and showed up in time to join everyone for the spa (onsen). I didn’t mind, it’s always relaxing. I mostly went becauseafter we all went to the super spicy ramen place, the place I met many people for the first time maybe 2 weeks after I arrived over a year ago. I got the medium heat one, and I hardly broke a sweat eating it, it was really tasty. More importantly though people started speaking, as they tend to do, in Japanese. Suddenly there was a huge applause, hands being shaken, and I was wondering what’s up.
Brett and Kaoru announced in two months time they will be tying the knot, and everyone can’t be happier for those too. I found out Brett reads this from time to time (I’m always surprised by my audience, as they’re so quiet) so I want to throw out a big congratulation to you man! You’ve earned my thumbs up of approval (^_^)ノ
The announcement kinda signaled the end of the night and we all did a very Japanese style “Bonzai” outside to celebrate some more. More Japanese was spoken and I was probably the only person there that didn’t understand.
It’s a tough feeling that; being part of something but then again you’re really not. I wish I could understand; I want to understand in the worst way. Some might call me obsessive at this point really… I mean come on, I don’t play video games anymore? What the hell happened to me?
I will take the test in December and I will pass it. Then maybe I can actually talk to people. Until then though over the next 3 months, I will finish a 500 Kanji texbook, 2 conversation textbooks, 50 units of listening tapes, 30 videos, attend classes Monday and Tuesday, untold amounts of memorization, repeat lessons until their learnt and more. Obsessive? Nah…
Nothing worth having is ever easy.
"It is not the place, nor the condition, but the mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable." -Roger L'Estrange