Friday, August 28, 2009

Entertaining Guests

Wow, 4 updates in one week eh? Maybe with this one I’ll finally be caught up… until Monday again that is. So I got back Sunday, right in the thick of Summer Holidays at school. I went to work on Monday, as per my contract, even though I would have no work to do for the next 2 weeks. This way they try to get us to use more of the holidays that we have, but I like to sprinkle them out into trips around the year.

So I went to work, and I actually wore one of those funny facemasks, as I was still sick. I had one of those nagging thoughts in the back of my head concerning the whole swine flu thing. When I landed they gave you a paper: “if you have or develop any of these symptoms…” kinda thing. The funny thing was I had every symptom on the paper, but I just wanted to go home and lay down. The thermal camera didn’t pick me up, so I must be ok right? Those symptoms were so general it could have been anything anyways: “cough, stuffy nose…” etc. Are you serious?

Anyways, Kasuga-sensei is a great guy, and took me to the hospital. There we waited for over an hour while they tested me for the swine flu, then when it came back negative, I got to see the doctor. All I had to do was open my mouth, he saw the swollen red, and I was done; almost 2 hours of waiting for a 2 minute visit. Oh well, I’ve waiting longer for less back home. Maybe I was cranky because I really wasn’t well and wanted to be in bed. At least it wasn’t strept throat; I got that a lot in Canada.

The rest of the week was kinda weird. I got medicine, and in Japan it’s weird! You know how we use gel capsules to hold powder in right? In Japan you just get the powder, then you gag on it while you drink water, trying to get this crap into your stomach. A different experience, but oh well. I went in to work a couple times, but the door was locked so I just went home again and played video games. I could have still been in Australia or Thailand but oh well, I was sick anyways so I’m not too bitter.

Noboru came to visit me too. He went to Russia and had a great time, but now that it was August he was homeless for a couple days until he went home. He stayed over and it was funny because he tried talking with me a couple times but I was so out of it with my flu I’m sure my sentences were a jumbled mess. After a while he left me alone to being a zombie in front of my games. It was so hot out.

On Tuesday morning at 5 we were awakened to a cool earthquake too. It started off small, and usually they stop in seconds. This one got stronger after about 10 seconds and kept going for 20 more maybe. When it stopped we went back to sleep, but apparently a highway was destroyed near Tokyo.

On Thursday, despite being sick still and in Ina, I drove the hour for my Japanese lesson. I was dressed all grubby and didn’t shave, but it was just class right? I guess I forgot, but before I left on holidays I made plans with my teacher to go see the huge Japanese Drums festival in town (Taiko). Because it was a festival, you had your standard Japanese festival assortment of tasty foods, but I also tried the fishing game for the first time.

You get a hoop and it has a sheet of rice paper over it. You use it to fish out as many, or as big of a fish as you can into your bowl. I of course failed right away; if you know rice paper then giving them water isn’t a very good idea. It was still fun to finally try it though; you see it in anime all the time.

The drum festival itself was quite impressive. I wasn’t sure if I was up for 2 and a half hours of drumming action, but it went by fast. Apparently this is the biggest festival of its kind in Japan; over 300 drummers were up on stage. The monstrous one in the center was 2 meters in diameter. It was good times; my teacher Kayo is really cool. I declined to join in the later festivals though, on Friday there was another Taiko show and on Saturday they had the famous fireworks display.

Friday the 14th I was starting to get better, finally after 2 weeks, and ordered Pizza at home for supper. Because it was Obon holiday, a lot of Japan is shut down as families gather and visit family graveyards (families will get one plot to put many urns inside). Because I live near graveyards they were quite lively, and now the tombstones are all clean and shiny, as per tradition. Anyways it took over 2 hours for the pizza to come because of the holiday, but I didn’t mind. What was cool though, my friend Yuri messaged me saying she was in town and wanted to meet.

We only had a couple hours, but we had a great supper of okonomiyaki at a new restaurant for me. That’s like a Japanese pancake that is famous down in the kansai area of Japan. We had a great talk and she loved my new look; I guess the shopping paid off. After we went back to my place where I gave her a cute present from Australia. I taught her how to play a video game (she killed zombies like a pro!), and later we looked over my Australia photos. She went there herself for ½ a year to study for those who maybe don’t remember her.

She left in the afternoon, and I was expecting to see Noboru before he took off, but things got crazy and he went straight to catch his bus to get back to America. I don’t remember what I did that night, I think I relaxed at home again. That night there were crazy fireworks at Suwa lake, but I didn’t go and later I was glad I stayed home like a nerd because boy did it rain hard that night. Just like last year when I went…

It’s so nostalgic and relaxing to be alone with my video games again <3 oh how rare those times have become. I beat one game, and almost beat another, but as of this writing in the last 2 weeks I haven’t found a spare hour to complete it. Well… atleast this blog is getting finished! Haha what a life… no wonder I’m crazy :)

My mom has a friend at work, and her daughter, Janelle, was visiting Japan. We had been in touch because of this, and on Sunday she came to visit. I wasn’t quite sure what we could do around my little place in Japan, but I had a couple ideas. Luckily she’s a pretty relaxed girl and we had fun with whatever we were doing. We started with some delicious sushi train, and then bugged my friend Miharu in the mall beside the restaurant for ideas. She laughed, but she gave us the great idea of going to see the Miharashi farm nearby.

I had been there before briefly, but still got lost. When we arrived, we were able to pick and eat blue berries for an hour in a little field. It was a great time I thought; we ate although we were still full of sushi, talked, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and surroundings. I found out she has never done Onsen either, so I knew I’d have to give her the experience much like I’ve done with my mom, sister and Christine before her.

At the farms there is a really big and nice Onsen. We got a discount for already having paid for the blueberry experience. I took my time in the bathhouse for an hour, enjoying all the many offerings like sauna, bubble jets, outside lounge and so on. There was an old dude in the middle of the floor doing butt flexes or something; thrusting his taint into the air. Disturbing times! Haha almost as bad as that one dude washing and splashing his balls about in a bucket; but I guess this is a bathhouse after all.

Although I took an hour, Janelle took maybe two. I didn’t mind; I fell asleep on a chair while waiting. She came back and had made new friends, as they took us out for supper and invited us over to their second home. Every month they go down to Ina for a bit, but they’re from Yokohama. They were really fun; we had a great time and incidentally gave Janelle a unique Japan experience. The best stuff you just can’t plan right?

Speaking of which, a similar thing happened that Monday. We went to my school so she could get an idea of how things work here as she teaches back in Canada. The school was mostly shut down for the holidays still, but she got the idea. We watched the archery club, and they had us join them! It was great; I love my kids, they’re so fun. She was shocked at just how different they were here compared to back home and how I joked around with them. Then later we sat on edge as the group practiced shooting, and there were kids down at the other end that weren’t really protected in anyway from a stray arrow… nervous times indeed!

Clubs wrapped up around lunch due to the heat, giving the students some time to, you know, go out and enjoy their summer holidays. They’re given so much homework over the summer, and the first days back they’re given tests to make sure they studied during that time. We used this time to get in my car and drive in a very indirect route to Matsumoto. Nagano is quite the beautiful place, if my frequent pictures of the countryside haven’t convinced you yet.

Along the way we stopped at that crazy “bull dog” store where I accidentally bough my brother a sex toy for Christmas and gandered over the amusing offerings. Before we left I bought “Hello Kitty” bed sheets for my bed at home. They’re a strong red, and kitty-chan is all over the place! They’re so awesome… that’s a good sign that I’ve lived here too long though, as I’d get beat up for that back home. That didn’t stop Janelle from being jealous though. They were for sale in “Japan only” and they fit futons, not queen size mattresses. She said she’d look for some on the Internet later.

We made it to the castle, but had to be fast on our tour as it closed at 6. After we met up with Neal, who moved to Matsumoto now for his new job. Incidentally, Ashley and Chris were meeting up with him later, and we had a big party. First we went to an amazing burger restaurant that I was shocked existed in Japan, then to a bar, then to Neal’s place, where we drank and partied until 5:30 in the morning.

Sure it was Monday night and we “worked” the next day, but I was “responsible” by choosing to cut my fun off at 4:00 in the morning so I could drive us back in the morning; better known as “3 hours later.” We played drinking games over some of the many boxes that were strung around, as he’s still very much just moving in. We later played the “never have I ever”, and although some tried to turn the game sexual, I found the best conversations came from unique offerings: for example “never have I ever skydived” or “been to London” and so on. What an amazing conversation game! Great stories came out from everyone.

Anyways, we didn’t have time to eat, just enough time to get home, pack, put my new Hello Kitty bed sheets on to evoke jealousy, then get Janelle to the bus so she could get home. I think I did pretty well for my first time! If you’re reading this Janelle, thanks for coming out! It was fun!

I spent the rest of the day in some weird limbo, not even bothered to check if the school was locked. Somewhat hung over, not really asleep or awake on my new Hello Kitty sheets in my house baking in the blistering heat. The next day, Wednesday, Neal was in town to clean up the final loose ends, and I got to meet the new guy replacing him. We ran various errands, then that night I went to Neal’s 18th going away party; I guess he made lots of friends in his 3 years here! Haha

On Thursday the 20th I went to Tatsuno where I spent the entire day writing blog entries, then went to my Japanese lesson. The weekend was back before I knew it and I had to think hard to figure out where my entire week had gone.

That Friday my friend from Kyoto, Noriko, came up to visit me. I went to visit her in June, and now it was my turn to return the favour. I got good practice from showing Janelle around, and having left work early, I went to the bus stop to meet her. She didn’t feel right staying over like Janelle did, so we got her checked in to a hotel then went for lunch. She hasn’t had Brazillian food before, so it was a great opportunity to try.

I think she liked it, and during lunch we made a bit of a game plan for her weekend. Matsui-sensei that sits beside me at work is a good friend now, and gave me some great ideas for things to do. Many of them didn’t resonate too much, so we had more of a relaxing day seeing the city.

We walked to the park and stuff, and then later went to the culture hall near my school. I was shocked! Inside, was a Planetarium. I couldn’t believe it when I read the katakana; I quickly ran upstairs to see what its deal was. That night it was sold out, but I’ll definitely need to come back later for a show. And to think, it’s a 5-minute walk from my house.

We made our way back to my place where we watched a movie, played video games and looked at pictures. She’s a nice girl, but she’s a bit shy with her English I think. I ended up talking too much for the both of us, but it gets tiring. Inadvertently, I tried out a lot of my Japanese and she answered a bunch of questions I had. We called it an early night and I took her back to the hotel; we both wanted to be rested for Matsumoto the next day.

I picked her up in the morning, and upon asking a convenience store for some directions, discovered there wasn’t a single restaurant open for breakfast in Ina until 11. That’s very typical for Japan though; everything is closed until the afternoon almost. I ended up cooking a quick breakfast for us, and we started a 4-hour car ride to Matsumoto. Usually it takes 90 minutes, but this was one hell of a detour, up and over mountains, around the lake and so on. It was really beautiful.

We got to the castle, but I opted to wait outside for her to go around because I paid to go inside the week before. It was a bit of a pity though, as the place was packed it was slow going; and it was a killer hot day. I was in the shade eating ice cream but I was still suffering, I’d hate to think how it was inside that castle with hundreds of people.

After we drove around for a while, we looked at maybe going into a couple museums, but we both didn’t really care too much to go in. We were tired and hot. I ended up calling Neal again, and we all met up for supper. We went for Mexican food, which is really rare in Japan! It was great and after we went to a nearby Matsumoto festival that we didn’t know existed until we walked past.

It was something of a German beer festival, with tall glasses of amazing brew and home made sausage alongside the standard Japanese festival fare. I, of course, had the worst luck in the world because I was driving. Neal told me to just smell one of his beers and I was ready to cry. I knew I’d have to go back before the festival was over. We enjoyed the evening with many people, and made many new friends as drinking parties and festivals like that is a great way to meet people.

On Sunday the 23rd, we were back in Ina, and Brett had announced a big BBQ party at the party last Wednesday. We went and it was a crazy experience. Not only was an amazing nature park/campground near where I live, but also the food was superb. Standard Japanese BBQ fare again of yakiniku and vegetables, but also others like tangerine chicken and burgers that Brett brought along. At first we were BBQing normal hamburgers, but then the Japanese cooking habits took over and they turned out more like meatballs. They still prepared them in an amazing way though, that you had to fall in love with them.

Later we tried something new: a noodles slide. I guess it’s traditional in Japan. We set up some bamboo slides, and slid somen noodles down them. You try to catch it with your chopsticks, dip it in sauce and eat it. It was really cool! Not to mention tasty. Later, they rolled tomatoes down the slide and if you could catch one with your chopsticks then you got a prize.

I didn’t think we’d be there as long as we were, but we ate, drank and partied for almost 5 hours. Before we got to crack the watermelon with a bat the traditional Japanese way, Noriko and I had to get going so she could catch her bus. It was a good thing we tried to leave early, as after the goodbyes and the pictures it took almost ½ and hour. She made a lot of friends, and many want to visit her in Kyoto. It was great to have her come up and visit me; I had a lot of fun.

I can’t remember how I spent the rest of the day, but that doesn’t matter compared to the fact that I’m finally caught up! Yay! Now I can take a break… until Monday.

"If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away." -Unknown


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