Monday, June 14, 2010

See You Again Soon

Things calmed down a lot after USJ, as our time together was winding down. On Friday June 4th, there was a leaver’s conference in Nagano City. Ashley was a sweetheart for letting us come up Thursday to stay over, and I got Ann to play Mario Galaxy for the first time. It was an entertaining evening, while Ashely and Chris worked hard to prep for that weekend’s English camp.

While I was at the meeting, Ann walked around the neighborhood, and did some final shopping, getting presents for her friends. The meeting itself was really informative and interesting, and I got handouts to help me during my last… wow only 7 weeks until I’m in Canada again. Anyways, they’ll help with the transition; everything from canceling bills, to garbage disposal, to help on claiming my pension when I get home.

People had a chance to give stories about their time in Japan, and most were touching. Many came down to the basic: ‘we’re all human’, and how understanding that is the first step towards world peace. In the end they played a slideshow of photos from over the years, and while I may not have recognized all of the people, it was clear we all shared something wonderful here together.

That night would be our farewell party at the infamous smile hotel, where we also have our welcome parties, and I marveled at the help-yourself alcohol section. Many parties were held here over the years, and over 70 people attended. Ann came along, and we all ate and drank for hours. Of course with that many people, it was loud and a little crazy, but it was a great chance to say goodbye to many people.

For some reason though, many events were scheduled the next day, so many people had a bit of restraint. For the CIRs: a training session. For some people, soccer for some reason, though I’m not sure why people want to get together and jog circles around a little ball for hours; is this really a sport? For us, we went to Sugadaira for the prefectural English camp, like I attended last year.

Unlike last year however, when I played Telephone with kids for the first 3 hours, we had a complex and confusing murder mystery. Poor Neal and I struggled through the first few groups, before streamlining it heavily, and drawing up many conclusions for the students to ponder. Basically, we did the math and gave answers, while getting the students to check the work. Even with doing that, it was a struggle to complete on time, but later we heard some students enjoyed that game the best, so it wasn’t all in vain.

Ann was a helper, running around and making sure everything went smoothly. I had hoped she would warm up to the students here more after her disappointing teaching session in Tatsuno, where she was shocked and appalled not only at students sleeping in class, but the ones who weren’t would stare at you and say nothing. I admit it’s not an easy job here, and that particular class is maybe the worst I’ve ever had to teach, ever. In fact by comparison, that class they were really good, instead of talking non-stop while you’re teaching; like I said early, I’m glad they didn’t disrespect my mom and Ann too much.

Maybe I’m getting off topic here though, Ann was sad students didn’t try to talk to her, or wave or anything when they passed in the hallway. I’ve never really thought about it, but that is really true. I’ve always been energetic enough to try and engage them, but most times I need to do the engaging. Ann is a bit shy with new people maybe.

I think she enjoyed the second part though, when students had presentations. They talked about various things, and the theme was music. One group had everyone stand up and do the Chicken Dance, so it became Ann’s favourite, along with many other students.

That night there was a ‘teacher’s meeting’, or more specifically, a drinking party. We saw students eyeing up the beer vending machine in the hallway, so maybe that’s why it was turned off. A quick survey in the morning revealed the average time the kids went to sleep at was around 3 in the morning, and I wouldn’t doubt some didn’t sleep at all.

We had one last fun game to play, and I didn’t want to play that word game again like last year. Instead, I remembered a childhood favourite: “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” The students all ask one student at the opposite side what time it is. Whatever time it is, that’s how many steps everyone takes together, until finally the wolf screams “dinner time!” Whoever he touches becomes the new wolf.

Of course there is a bit more to it, but that’s the basics. I wasn’t thinking clearly maybe, and we played near a cliff. While chasing a student, I simply ran into it, and luckily didn’t lose control otherwise it could have been bad. For the most part, I think everyone had fun, and even Ann joined in a bit. When there were no students, we joined a nearby group playing a Frisbee game. They alternated the English activities quite a bit, so it was always fun and engaging.

The students went back at noon, and we started the long 3-hour drive home. I wanted to stop in Matsumoto to show Ann the castle, but she was exhausted and content with having seen the one in Hiroshima. I gave a ride to Wulf too, and we had interesting talks all the way, while enjoying the beautiful day and surroundings.

Now it was Ann’s last week in Japan, and I picked my camera up after getting repaired on warranty. I wanted to cook for Ann before she took off. What started off as simple, aimless spaghetti quickly grew to one of my favourite childhood dishes: Tomato Soup and Noodles. While I wanted Ann to eat it as it was, she quickly added one thing after another. First it was hot chilly peppers. Later, pepper, and then basil, and then even some seafood.

At first I was very taken aback she would alter this simple dish that I love so much, but she was really on to something amazing. Before I knew it, she had eaten way more than me, and could hardly move. Somehow by accident, I had made her one of the best meals she has ever eaten, and I’m happy I was able to do that for her. Pasta is extremely simple and cheap, and can be used in so many ways; apparently that was one of her first times using it for anything, Linguini that is. Another day, I cooked her some of my lemon chicken in the oven.

Wednesday was class match day at Yayoi. For those who don’t remember, the whole school shuts down, and classes are divided into teams to play various sports against each other. This time there was badminton, volleyball for girls only, and softball for the boys. I was drafted onto the teacher’s team.

It has been years since I played, and naturally my skills dwindled a lot. Luckily I was back-catcher, so I didn’t have to run much. We won two games, but lost the 3rd around noon, retiring our careers. I did ok at bat, though my first 5 hits were all caught, I got an RBI later on, then in the last game the referee was terrible and I struck out somehow. I know that sounds biased, but I watched his calls on other players; balls whizzing by at eye-level were counted as ‘strikes’. Oh well, it was all for fun I guess.

Ann came to watch one of the games, but was delayed because she called the Canadian Embassy in Thailand. We’re working on her coming to visit, but are unsure of the documents required, as it seems more complicated than it was coming to Japan. Unfortunately after struggling with those horribly inane automatic phone systems for 30 minutes, and after actually getting to talk to a living person, she was less than helpful; I guess Ann will have to go there in person to get information, as the website is fairly complicated and vague.

For the baseball she did see though, she had a great time, though was sad it was over so quick. Because there were so many teams, 4 games were occurring simultaneously, and had a 20-minute cap. We still had fun, and went for Chinese food for lunch.

From the baseball and the heat, I was exhausted; I slept for 2 hours when I got home. When I woke up, I dawdled a bit trying to wake up, cooked some supper, and went to my English class. I made Mushroom Soup and Noodles this time, my first time attempting it. I think it came out well, and I was partially hoping lightning would strike twice like with the tomato soup. Perhaps it did, as when I came home Ann seemed plenty happy about it.

On Thursday we met up with Sorin for some sushi, so he could say farewell to Ann. On Friday we had her farewell party in Okaya, where Mervin told us of a new buffet restaurant. Ironically, this was a healthy buffet should such a thing even exist. They had tofu hamburgers, whole grain rice, soymilk ice cream and more; it was still good though.

We made our way back to Mervin’s for some video games, and played Pictionary. I marveled at Ann’s growing ability to read, as a few short months ago she struggled a lot, but apparently my compliment came out wrong. Ann’s team won, but we all had fun.

On Saturday, half the people had to leave, while more people came to see Ann off, and to try out her Thai cooking. I told her to expect around 7 people, but she had enough for the 9 that came. It was one amazing dish after another, and we all joked about taking turns sponsoring Ann’s next visa so she could move in and cook.

Thi went so far as to claim she would better appreciate Ann than I, as I had never seen the pumpkin dessert she made before. It was sweet and creamy, and simply delicious. There was soup, curry, salad, fish, noodles and more, and all of it healthy and delicious. I think we all walked away with a different favourite dish.

Many more people said goodbye, and some even brought presents for her. We later drove back to Ina to try and play mallet golf one last time, but were disappointingly out of luck, as they don’t take on new golfers past 3:00. Undeterred, we went to the obstacle course again and enjoyed the park, and surrounding nature. This was Ann’s first time on a seesaw.

Around 6 we all parted ways, and Ann and I went for sushi one last time. She even took some of the wasabi packets to bring home as presents, a marvelous idea really. We tried to watch a movie, but she fell asleep, exhausted from the busy day, and lack of sleep the night before. It’s now hot enough that I need the fan on for me to fall asleep anymore.

Lacking ingredients in the morning, I still was able to make a nice omelet for breakfast before getting on the bus to Tokyo. During our trip, I tried to whip together a DVD of pictures for her, but was thwarted by a dead battery. Considering how much I was trying to do though, it’s good that the computer lasted as long as it did; I’m just sad I didn’t bring my charger to complete it at the airport. I had 10% battery left, but the compilation simply killed the remaining power, so close to the finish line. I’ll have to mail it to her later.

We had lunch, checked in her luggage, and spent our last ½ hour together on the roof patio, watching planes take off. Yesterday, Ann went home. It was a rough 12-hour transit to and from the airport, and a reluctant parting. We had hugged and embraced enough in that last hour, that she was able to go a little earlier, saying she didn’t want to start crying. I didn’t either.

In her 3 months here, I have heard her English getting better and better, and listened as her answer to “How do you like Japan?” slowly change from “so so” to “really good” to “I Looooove Japan!” Some of her experiences rivaled that of other teachers, such as seeing a baseball game, or visiting Hiroshima.

I kept myself mentally occupied during the long commute home, forcing myself to think of other things; job hunting, packing, saying goodbye myself, and the fun we will have together in Canada. I talked with Neal later on the phone, and it hit home when he asked me about Ann: “she’s… gone” was about all I could muster in my speechlessness.

I got a call from her past 1 in the morning, so I assume she got home safe. All she said in her message was “I miss you.” When I go home today, her shoes won’t be there, nor her big smile, nor her warm hugs. What will be there, are thousands of warm memories in my heart.

I’m happy that in our short time together, we were able to see and share many things. I was able to share with her my love of this great place, and we were able to share our love for each other. Soon, Canada will be our next, new adventure.

"Many things in life will catch your eye, few will catch your heart. Pursue those!" -Author Unknown


No comments: