Monday, July 5, 2010

Fireflies, Festivals, and Moving

Last week got away on me, what can I say? But this way it’s a 2-week update so it works out. It was firefly season again in Tatsuno, and I went out Tuesday and Thursday night. I discovered my camera can do long exposures, so the photos I took were amazing. Later we did even more by writing out “English” with our cell phone’s lights. We chose that word because I happened to be joining Richard’s English Class.

Speaking of which, I had my last class on Wednesday with them. It was simply wonderful teaching them, as it’s great having students actively want to learn and try hard. I wanted to finish the class with a game, but they were too involved in some other activities I had prepared for them. I love it when they take sometime I give them, and run with it, surprising me with ways the lesson can go; like it has its own life.

On Thursday many of the other JETs were suppose to see the fireflies, but I accidentally confused them so other events unfolded. I wanted to stay in Tatsuno after school to save me the trip, but had time to kill before sunset. The idea hit me: why don’t I finally climb that hill I’ve stared at almost every day for the last 3 years?

Michelle came with me, but no one else; some thought they had to be early for the hill if they wanted to see the fireflies after; miscommunications are common in English as well. Although Uchiyama Sensei told me her asthmatic 7 year-old daughter could climb that hill in 40 minutes, it took us almost an hour. I really am in terrible shape; the heat and humidity didn’t help. It was quite pretty though, and Michelle even saw a couple foxes in the bush on the way up.

At the top, I finally got a glimpse of Tatsuno from up high. It was really spectacular. We were then treated to a fire-red sky as the sun set, and we stayed long enough to see the lights of the city fire up. We ate our supper and fought bugs, but it was totally worth it. If I should go again, I’ll just drive to the top next time, as there was a house and parking lot right up there to our surprise. Apparently if you go further down another path, you’ll come to a marker that states the geographic center of Japan.

Following Michelle’s phone light, we were able to make our way down. Exhausted, our firefly tour was rather short, especially with everyone else canceling out. I still got nice photos of the place though.

On Friday Yayoi started its school festival. I was a slow riser, still feeling depressed, and spent a couple hours cleaning, and posting a list of things in my house to give away. For most people they have someone move into their house once their gone, but for me there is no-one, so I have much more, and much harder, things to get rid of. Most of it would be a waste to chuck, so the term “sale” was optional.

Eventually I made it out to our festival, but on the first day it was like years prior. The students did dance competitions by the different classes, had contests like who are the best couple, and which boys are the prettiest girls and so on. Later they had more competitions out in the yard. I had Eel for lunch at a local restaurant, and it was fantastic.

I was in the area because I had mailed a DVD of pictures and movies that I (finally) made for Ann. She applied again to visit Canada, and again they denied her; perhaps another reason I was feeling so down. I’m still ashamed of how she was treated at the embassy, but things happen for a reason. Instead of going to Canada this summer, she found a school to be certified as a Nanny, so really things will work out better this way; she will be able to stay and work for a long time instead of just going on a trip with me for a month around the West.

On Saturday, June 26th, the festival really kicked off… though it rained all day. I spent a couple hours in the morning cataloguing all the books in my house for the interested people and their emails that started to flood my inbox. After, I spent a couple hours with my students enjoying their festival despite the rain, and even met up with Sorin as he has the same teacher for his Tea Ceremony.

That night was spent cleaning and organizing, for Sunday was the last day of the festival. One class made a large atomic bomb dome model, complete with the Enola Gay in the corner. Again it was fun despite raining in the morning, and the students danced around the huge fire and wrestled in the mud like last year. I didn’t join them this time though. On Monday when I should have been writing a blog entry, I was busy at the Handicapped school because the day was spent cleaning at Yayoi. We made lesson plans for Wednesday, and I went home to relax; I didn’t know that would be my only free time that week.

The rest of the week was havoc. On Tuesday I had tests to correct and hours of emails to catch up on. After work I was busy cleaning and preparing if I remember right, as everything was coming together for a big trip on Thursday. On Wednesday I went for sushi with Kayo and Richard. It was great to catch up again, I don’t think I’ve seen her since Onbashira; needless to say the Canada holiday is still up in the air. Both of them helped pick through my house and prepare my car for the big trip Thursday.

After a busy day at work, I drove straight to Matsumoto with a car absolutely full of stuff for 5 different people. Neal took my TV stand, while a cool guy named Trevor from Montreal took some other things. We ended up talking for almost an hour as Neal was busy tutoring.

The next stop I met a great guy from Uzbekistan. He was taking stuff for his sister in Nagano, things like my dresser, bookshelves and more; another great conversation with another cool guy. The last 2 people were American, and didn’t seem to want to talk much. We met, exchanged goods like books for one, and electric blankets for the other. The whole thing took over 5 hours but worked like clockwork. I’m still shocked how well everything went, and feel great my stuff found a new home as apposed to a dumpster.

On Friday our block had a farewell party for leavers like me at the Nepalese restaurant where we had our welcome party. I was still exhausted, and not sleeping so well recently because of the heat, but we still had fun. On Saturday Sorin had an event to celebrate Australian Christmas, which they apparently have in July.

For it, he had prepared over 10kg of sausages that were BBQed, and cut lengthwise to make them flat; Aussie style? In short, it was a sausage on a bun, and delicious as sausage from the Brazilian store is. What he also made were some Kangaroo meatballs. For most people this was their first time, but it was my 3rd now, and the meat tasted really dry for some reason this time. I still liked it though.

After Molly came over and helped clean out my house by taking some futons and kitchen items. Later still, Dan and his wife came to claim even more items, and we chatted about all kinds of stuff for a couple hours before we had to go to the party up North. Craig and Lauren were hosting a “North American Day” party, a mix of Canada day and Independence Day.

He BBQed some amazing pork chops, Dougal made Tacos, and there were other foods there too. I figured I’d bring some “Canadian Culture” by making Poutine for the first time. Using the gravy my mom gave me, I helped put the poutine together; though I didn’t really do much other than direct how it was to be assembled. Needless to say it was a huge hit, and interesting how all the Americans there had never heard of Poutine before, I guess I can’t blame them. Next time I should try and bring ketchup chips.

Sunday was a day of cleaning. Everything was a big mess in my house, as the missing bookshelves and dressers left everything tossed on the floor. I meticulously went over everything, and though I’d hate to throw a lot of the stuff away, I need to get realistic about leaving. In the end I filled 2 large non-burnable bags, 2 huge burnable bags, and a plastic bag. (for those confused, you have to sort your garbage in Japan, it’s really annoying, especially knowing the plastic is going to be burnt anyways)

Because I had so much and garbage day was Tuesday, I put a bag out in the box so it was ready. This morning I saw the bag was ripped open and rummaged through and was confused; it couldn’t have been animals, as there was no food in there. Actually it was much worse; a nosy neighbor.

I have heard about “garbage police” and “garbage Nazis” from other JETs before, but I guess my Japanese experience would be incomplete without having dealt with them. It was just one obviously bored guy with too much time that called my school to lecture them for a while and cause trouble. I almost felt a bit violated that he rummaged through my garbage really, and took out things like bills I threw away. This garbage was to be burnt, not be looked at by neighbors.

Long story short, after he finally went away, I took my garbage back home, so I can put it back there tomorrow; and I fully expect him to watch me like a hawk while I do it. I apologized to my supervisor and office worker who got the brunt of his lecture for me, as the pieces of what he said that I understood were not very good.

Of course I’m not going to finish this on a low note, so let’s jump back to Sunday night. I was at home, exhausted from cleaning for hours, and didn’t really want to go out. Richard was asking, and later Ike proposed a BBQ at his house. Well that sounds awesome, why not?

From a local pub in town, Ike gets hundreds of dollars of free beer. He gets them because they “expire” and it’s illegal to sell. It all tasted good to us, and I polished off 4 big bottles by myself. Ike made burgers, Stephen made Guacamole for the chips, and after we all ate smores.

It was just a beautiful night and the company was wonderful. We did some reflections, as Ike, Jessie and I will leave soon, and Molly and Stephen, the two new people, were picking up advice we’ve accumulated over the years. It was not unlike elders gathered around the fire teaching the young the ways of the world, yet we are still learning all the time. Ike discovered he could buy a BBQ only a month or two ago. It took me over 2 years to feel like I’ve finally “moved in” to Japan.

My flight is confirmed though; I’ll be in Vancouver on July 29th. I’ll stay with my sister in Victoria for a while before going to Regina; it’s looking like I won’t do that road trip anymore. Only about 3 weeks left to top off the best years of my life.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." -Buddha


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