Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ruby Tuesday/The Search for God

My posts have been uploaded late because the internet is being all weird about video.

Weekend recap as follows: Saturday a few others and I helped what’s-his-face celebrate his 24th birthday. We went to a yakiniku restaurant, which can best be explained as a kind of like do-it-yourself kebab without skewers. There are grills in the table, you order the meat and vegetables you want to grill, and cook your savories how you wish. Delicious. Then we went to a bar called Ing, based off of some Rolling Stones something or other. Lots of classic rock, blah blah blah. Not particularly my scene, in both the bar and classic rock sense, but again I was in an unfamiliar area at night, so I stuck with the crowd. No carrying anyone home this time, so overall it wasn't half bad.

On Sunday I went with Margaret to some International Center up in the mountains for the International Fest I mentioned in an earlier post. We learned about Serbia (from a Serbian man speaking Japanese. Augh!), how babies are made (with really cute pictures and what might have been free verse poetry), a little bit of traditional Korean dance, and something about people who made stuff with bamboo. I didn’t catch most of it, but apparently everything in Europe started with the Slavs. Who weren’t actually Slavs, by the way, but a lot of them had “slav” in their names, and so were dubbed Slavs. The Serbian/Slavian man presenting thought that was unfair. Also, the French claim to be the root of civilization. As do the Italians. My vote is for the Israelis, but it’s not my battle.

Then they showed a Senegalese film about FGM, which made me cry. I was the only dark face in the room/building/all of Kameoka, sitting on the front row, wiping my eyes. We saw one of the men from the taiko group there, and when I showed up at taiko yesterday he said something to me, mildly mocking, most likely, about crying during the film. Curse you, cinema, for your hold over my emotions!

I left early to walk down the mountain and catch a train. I left the Center at 3 p.m. to give myself two hours to get to Kyoto Assembly Church’s English service. I should have given myself four.

Walking that scary road down the mountain, like the places where the sidewalks ended and the mirrored curves began, took about 50 minutes. I also took a picture.

I watched the train I needed pull out of the station, a strangely ominous sight that would set the tone for the evening. I paid too much for a ticket because I couldn’t read the kanji on the screen, got on a train, and headed back into the main part of Kameoka. I had given myself a little extra time to get to where I needed to go, but when I discovered that I had forgotten to write train changes down on my map, I had to dash home and look them up on Hyperdia. And so it goes.

Scribble, dash, watch train I need pull out from station.

Buy ticket, take deep breaths.

Get on train to Kyoto. Arrive, get confused.

Call Margaret to ask about kanji for station I need.


Find station on map, buy ticket, realize will be 15 minutes late.

Confusion. Call Margaret to find platform I need.

Watch train I need pull out of station. Panic, almost leave and go sit by the river and drink coffee and journal my despair.

Get on next train. Realize I’m going to be thirty minutes late.

Get of train in Nihonjin area of Kyoto (where there aren’t other foreigners) and realize lost ticket and map. Ask station
attendants for help.

Realize lost map. Can remember directions (pretty simple) but have to find a way to cross the street and go north. Call Margaret.

Go north. Turn east at a street whose name I recognize from the map. Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Ask for directions.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

It is now 6:15. Turn back towards station, defeated.






Return to Kameoka and break out a Chu-hai.

Why, God?

However, the good thing is that I got exercise and inadvertently convinced Margaret that she needed to accompany to church next week. I also managed to prove to the rest of the Kameokan crew (at another evening Nodame Cantabile vieweing that night) that Christians can get frustrated up to their ears and snappish without completely losing their religion. I did warn them by shouting, “I’m CRANKY!” when they walked in the door, so they thought my grumpy attitude was more amusing than anything else. How do I know? They told me.

I was sore yesterday and am sorer today. Even my arms are sore (from swinging while I walked? Heck if I now why). Taiko therefore was a little bit painful, but still a lot of fun. Phil, Margaret and I were there for the second week in a row while Liz and Paulette joined us for the first time. Just beating some drums. I did manage to get my thumbs under control, so congratulations to me. The Nihonjin at taiko are very friendly and genki, and since I have no other means of communication I resort to hamming. It's surprisingly cross-cultural. I think I might have gotten sincerely complimented on my taiko almost-skills, but I couldn’t quite tell. They never do it to our faces, just talk and point until they see us looking back. I got pointed at a couple of times, and they weren’t laughing so…Success? That or they were figuring out how to politely tell me to never come back.

Then Liz and I danced like goofs around the empty room, once the drums had been put away. The children laughed and the peasants rejoiced. I missed modern dance (Liz is a dance major, and totally could have spanked me if she had chosen), so I rented Step Up 2: The Streets when I got home. See review below.

I’ve already gotten into a terrible sleeping schedule of going to bed whenever the heck I want and getting up in time to shower and be mostly dressed when Margaret knocks on my door in the morning. This means I’m wiped for the whole day, then I go home and sleep with the windows open (since I’m too tired to go outside and enjoy the weather) until about 7. Then I wake up, eat something, and putter around until I'm sleepy again, which is usually around 2:00 a.m. Repeat. That’s going to stop really quickly when I start teaching and have to catch a bus at 7:09 in the morning. Curses, you mountain schools!

I laminated my pictures for my self-introduction today, and naturally the other members of my department had to expect. They laughed at the difference in height between pictures of the kids as children and now, asked me how old my dog was, and said it was very cool that my father is a pianist. They were extremely complimentary. My family, apparently, looks like it's made of movie stars, but guess who's ichi-ban kawai?


That's right, tell everyone you know. My grandmother is 97 years old, she'll be 98 in December, she can still drive for 20 miles on a clear day and is genki as can be. And the Japanese men I work with think she's cute. The number one cutest of the whole family, to be exact.

I can't top that, so I'll end here.

Movie Review: Step Up 2: The Streets
Acting: Better than I expected. Cassie should never open her mouth. Not to sing, not to speak. The awesome part is that they label her character in the movie as a triple threat (acting, singing, dancing), yet of all the lines delivered in the movie, hers are the least convincing. Also, she dances rarely and sings never. Shut up, Cassie. You’re only famous because you’re pretty. Even the corny, “Andie, you taught us that blah blah blah,” when all the crew shows up on the main character’s doorstep are more better. Maybe it’s because it was the only line some of them had in the whole hour and a half, so they put extra effort into it. Of course, since I was watching this on my computer, I pretty much skipped all the parts when people were talking, so this may not be the most accurate assessment.

Plot: Nobody gives a crap about street dancers having something to say. For real. The dancers might, and I might sympathize, but when it gets down to it, nobody considers b-boys and b-girls as a force to be reckoned with in the society. They do make for great selling points in commercials and music videos. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re all light-years cooler than I am, and smart as whips (I guess, I don’t really know). However, what happens when the days of street dancing end? Mayhap I am being extra-harsh because of how the street dancing sense of community and purpose was presented, but so much of those, “Hey, listen!” speeches was complete and utter idealistic bull. Has anyone watched someone spinning on his or her head and thought, “Ah. I do indeed need to reassess my personal values,” or “Indeed, that portrayal of love hits close to home”? Speak up, people. Whatever; I dance for the money, bro!

Also, there was a nearly-disregarded subplot about the main character learning to do something like feel the music. She never really changed, so I’m pretty sure she never learned jack diddly. So much for dance school. Also, why the heck would any school reject a kid with perfectly white teeth but a slight need of dental work? The character of Smiles made no sense as an outcast.

Dancing: It’s why I rented the movie, of course. I got exactly what I wanted. The dancing is pretty amazing. That shirt-trick in the beginning could come in handy in the future. I’ll watch it again tonight, but just the good parts, a.k.a. the dance scenes and the credits, when they dance some more.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A two-fer for ye, ya lucky suckers!

Because it takes an hour to write everything down and only about 30 minutes to yammer at a screen and cut out the times when I trail into silence, I opted to yammer. Here yammereth I for eleven minutes, about the beaujazz I promised to talk about in the upcoming post. This is that post, so I talked. Also, I'm wiped. I'd hibernate if I hadn't committed to being social this weekend.

End notes:
  • By the way, the people listening to my presentation were so uninterested in my lesson plan that when I asked for advice, they asked me where I got my shoes.
  • Quick clarification: My pants were damp because I had washed them that morning and hung them up when I got home. I thought I would be in Kameoka for the night, but since I didn't know where I was I stuck with the large group. And gained some serious blackmail material. Success?
  • Quick change from damp pants to Wed. morning conference talk, I know. It has been a long week. The video got cut off a little, but all you miss is me complaining about how boring Day Two was.
  • When I'm at the BOE, I spend the whole day listening to people talk on the phone. That's how I got so skilled at the Japanese phone conversation. The person on the other end of the line, by the way, talks so fast that no one else could get a word in edgewise, so all in all there's no harm done.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Weekday News, Summertime Blues

No blues, actually. It just rhymed, and the song was stuck in my head.

I got my gaijinkomadinkarinkytech (Alien Registration Card), which meant I could finally, after two visits/six hours in SoftBank, I could get a cell phone! After being told yes, we could get keitais without gaijin cards, then no, we needed credit cards, then yes, we could get them, then no, you really do need your g-card, we were rather frustrated with SoftBank. We kind of had a relationship with the guy who worked there, since we spent so much dang time with him. I think he got depressed every time our foreign faces darkened the store doors. So, on the third visit and after another three hours of waiting for some faxes to go through, we got keitais. Mine might be the coolest thing ever. It’s not quite on iPhone level, I admit, because it’s not a touch screen (but there is a touch pad), but it has so many gadgets that I don’t quite know where to start. Plus, the manual’s all in Japanese, so it’s a bit hard to figure everything out.

Also, after a couple hours this last time around a very tan man strolled in, Asian but not Japanese. Preface: The Japanese in my neck of the woods understand English like Oklahomans understand Spanish. We may have had it in class, can understand the Taco Bell Chihuahua, pick out a few words here or there, but most people don’t understand what the heck is being said when Spanish is spoken at a normal level. The Japanese, if English is spoken slowly, can understand some simple words and phrases. If spoken with an accent, with slang, or quickly, there’s a 95% chance that they won’t get the jist of what’s going on. Ergo, we talked about how precious the SoftBank employee was with his pinstripes and lost expression right in front of his face. He gave absolutely no sign of understanding; he definitely would have blushed.

Me to Kim, softly but not whispering: Hello, Gorgeous Arms.

Kim, looking around: Huh?

Me: Look how tan he is!

Kim: Oh, I know. That’s a beautiful color.

Me: He really does have gorgeous arms. He’s kind of cute.

Margaret: True

Kim, turning back around: He really is.

Man turns around, awkward meeting of eyes, smiles a little.

Me: He might have understood that.

Kim: I don’t think he could hear us, though.

Man to SoftBank Employee: Excuse me, do you speak English?

Me: Crap.

Kim asked where he was from (Nepal), I asked what he was doing in Japan (working as a rafting guide on the Hozugawa) and Margaret laughed at us. Now I want to go rafting. And no, it’s not to stalk the cute Nepalese guy. I simply enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors. And beautiful tan man arms.

Question: Why is public nudity a sign that one has a healthy body image? Public baths have been around for ages, yes I know. The Japanese version, or onsen, is one big way that Nihonjin socialize (fear not, those who are concerned. The men and women are separated). I get that. What I don’t get is the emails from JET members advertising onsen trips with lines like “a liberating experience for those who aren’t used to naked time.” “Bring a small towel for covering up while out of the pools if you are the shy type.” As in, if you can’t do the onsen, you have body issues. There’s a distinct superiority, as though those who can bath with others in the nude and not cover up with towels are just that much more liberated and comfortable. It reminds me of a kindergartener who, after learning how to skip, called me. “Hey, Ms. Laurel, look! Am I doing a really, really good job?” What was I supposed to say? I could only answer in the affirmative.

Sure, kindergarteners need someone to tell them that it’s okay to have self-confidence. I am not a kindergartener. I don’t feel the need to prove that I’m comfortable with my body by lounging about with my humps exposed. I figured that not feeling the need to lose weight, despite being surrounded by women on whom a size 0 would seem loose, was a pretty good indicator. However, I feel like if I give an honest excuse, such as, “I just don’t want to,” the onsen-lovers will interpret it as a result of a sadly Puritan upbringing. It was rather amusing, actually, to here why some wouldn’t go the last time around. “Oh, I have no problem being naked. I used to go every week the last time I was here. I’ve just been sick for the past few days.” Note that my excuse of the cloud passing over the moon (Memoirs of a Geisha, anyone?) was totally legit but not much better. Oh well. Never fear, fellow Puritans. I’ll keep my lady business to myself without qualms.

Alright, folks. It’s time for Weekend in a Nutshell. Let’s do this.

Friday: I hibernated. I do it sometimes, when I’ve been away from my residence with a lot of social activity. I don’t answer my phone, I don’t contact the outside world, I just stay at home and do whatever the heck I feel like doing. I might have Skyped my family. Was that Friday? I don’t remember; I hibernated both Thursday and Friday nights, and the activities were much the same.

Saturday: After a lazy morning, Margaret and I went to find out what the heck we could see on the side of a hill from the window at work. It’s something that looks like a mini Washington Monument, but it’s all by its lonesome. After a long, long hike up frustratingly shallow steps and an awkward transition to the type of steps that require lunges, we reached the monument. Something something Peace something. Good job us, take some pictures, follow the red posts up the hill. Shrines, something something, foxes, something, pigeon with a tag on its leg and no fear, observation deck at the top of the mountain. Gorgeous view of Kameoka, which is mostly in a valley (save for half my schools, apparently). The castle ruins are in the tree area in the middle of the city.

I ate a delicious nutritious mango that afternoon, and am paying for it now. My lips itch like crazy.

That evening all of the Kameokan JETs (save Kim, who was in Osaka) went to Kyoto to see Daimonji, which signals the end of Obon. The spirits are dumb, so they need fires in the shape of kanji on the side of a mountain to guide them home. The spirits can read, but they can’t get back to the spirit world…Basically it was an excuse for a bunch of JETs to meet up, exchange contact information, and be loud together. The whole affair is to sit on the river bank, talk until the fire is lit after dark, take some pictures, and then leave. No music, no ceremony, just an “Ooh!” when the fire gets lit, and then leave. After the fire had mostly burned out on the mountain, group of 17 or so went to a Mexican restaurant in Kyoto (not the same. Good, but not the same), stayed out really late, and we were running to the last trains home.

Yesterday: More Nodame! It’s all about music students, the two main characters are pianists, and it makes me miss playing the piano so much it hurts. Itchy fingers. Oh, Grieg! Ah, Rachmaninoff! Ach, Beethoven! Come home for Christmas or buy a good keyboard? It’s a tough decision.

Also, beforehand I snapped this awesome picture of Hot Pants-san in Seiyu. His girlfriend’s shorts were longer than his. What a fox, ne?

Wrote this last Monday—Busy week this week; here’s what will be in the upcoming entry:

Monday: Taiko drumming. I’m not sure if I’m watching or participating, but I’m going.
Tuesday: Conference for all Kyoto JETs during the day. Party at night, ya’ll. Hey!
Wednesday: More conference, calligraphy class at night. Woot!
Thursday: Work, then hibernate because I’ve been all social-ed out. New bike!
Friday: It's happening right now. I'll let you know
Saturday: Allow Margaret to guilt me out of being an antisocial poop and begin cycle again.

Well, that’s my week in a nutshell, both past and future. By the way, I love comments more than I love lamp. So, comment. All ya’ll. Ja ne!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oh, the Places I Go

I wrote this on Monday, by the way, which is why the days will be a little off.

I realize that it has been a near-unforgivably long time since last I blogged. Lots has happened; it’s a little easier to recount in a succunt form. Also, if I took the time to explain all my vocabulary uses and give a breakdown of the people mentioned, it would take forever. If you’d like a glossary and a who’s who post, let me know and I’ll do my best to oblige. A Week’s Worth of Blogging starts now.

Thursday and Friday, August 7, 8

I met the people in charge at the ten schools where I’ll be working for the next year. On Thursday it was the man who sits across from me at the BOE who took me around to the city schools. We talked during the car rides between schools, but when we got to the schools he would pretend that he didn’t speak any more English than most of the people I met. I didn’t realize that’s what he was doing until I got to a school at which the English teacher wasn’t present and the principal’s English was as bad as my Japanese. By the gesturing and vocabulary use—Nihongo (Japanese) and Eigo (English)—and Higuchi-san’s head shaking, I got that they were asking if he was acting as my translator. I smiled and bowed and apologized every time the word Nihongo came up. The principal finally attempted some English, which I didn’t understand at all. They looked at me, tried again, and I looked at Higuchi-san. He looked at them, looked at me, and asked quietly, “What kind of music do you like?” The other two teachers burst into laughter, basically giving my colleague the “Oooh, you liar!” treatment while Higuchi-san protested.

On Friday it was my supervisor, Inoue-san, who drove me to the mountain schools. I won’t go into details about driving and mountain roads and curling my toes inside my shoes, but it was an adventure. Inoue-san claims that his English is not very good, but it’s all lies. Of course, it’s a little tough to tell when I’ve used English to fast or complicated for the Nihonjin to understand, because either way they’ll nod and say, “Ah,” when I’ve finished talking.

What I learned: I’ll be doing some serious transit this year. Huzzah for the wintertime. Hope I packed my boots into that box of clothes Mom and Dad are supposed to send me. Also, I should probably learn some Japanese, just in case I have to communicate with someone at some point.

Also, on Friday morning I gave out my staff omiyage—Dove chocolates. They were thrilled to find that there was English on the inside of the wrapper, and would ask Paulette to help them figure out what “Follow your instincts” meant. My supervisor’s supervisor stopped me as I was going past his desk to thank me. This was how it went.

Him: Sank you

Me, waving hand in front of face: Iee; it’s nothing.

Him: Doh-buh?

Me: Dove

Him: Dohb

Me: Dovvvvve

Him: Dob

Me: Hai, very good

Friday night Margaret, Phil, Paulette, Liz and I got together for some chill time and the viewing of an awful/awesome Japanese doorama (drama) called Nodame Cantabile. I think it’s based off an ongoing manga and there’s an animated series as will. This live action version contains a sinfully beautiful lead actor, terrible acting, hilariously bad special effects, a Japanese man playing a German guy with a terrible accent and some of the best classical music ever written. I won’t go into much further detail, but it’s totally worth a look. Even Phil likes it.

Saturday, August 9

I met up with Margaret, the JET who’s American-standards fluent in Japanese, and we went for breakfast at Mr. Donut and some local exploration. Mr. Donut had green tea-flavored donuts. The green tea donut and the other chocolate donut I bought were chewy and shaped, appropriately, like teething rings. It was okay. There were the traditional glazed, sure, but I didn’t see anything that remotely resembled a sprinkle, so I’m not sure if I can quite count Mr. Donut as a success or not.

Margaret and I found a moat filled with whatever these are, mayhap lotuses (loti?), mayhap lilies, mayhap neither. It was gorgeous, so we took pictures. A middle-aged man walked past when I was sitting on one of the leaves, and laughed at us. Good bonding, Nihonji.

Margaret and I continued around aforementioned moat to find a raked gravel path leading into a park-like area. We entered. It turned out to be the ruins of a castle and a large temple, plus a few other shrinelike structures (or large stones) with complicated kanji written all over. It was incredibly serene; we only saw a couple of other people as we were walking around, and I wished I had brought a blanket and a book. It’s a place that is hard to describe, mostly because there was so little need to break the silence at the time. Sure, I climbed a little bit on the ruins, no respect at all, blah blah blah. Nevertheless, I could have stayed there for hours. Provided that I had brought bugspray. I didn’t, so we left.

That's Margaret on the wall, by the way.

As you can see, my hair was down, so I startled a boy in Seiyu when Margaret and I stopped in for beverages after our morning foray. Afro 1, Nihonjin 0.

We got back to our apartments at 11:00 or so, which meant I had plenty of time to cut up the nasty old burned/moldy futon cover that was left on my back porch and refused by the garbage people. I did laundry, sang to Whitney Houston at the top of my little lungs (neighbors, schmeighbors), and took a fantastic nap.

That night four of the Kameoka JETS (Me, Margaret, Paulette and Kim-Chi) met up with a Kyoto JET in Kyoto to see The Dark Knight. Wow. Um, wow. The movie theater had amazing caramel popcorn. Also, the movie was really good. I am not afraid to cover my eyes and ears when the music gets all Psycho-violins and dangerous, so I missed the infamous pencil trick and pretty much didn’t watch anyone die. Still, not a movie for kids, no matter how much Batman: The Animated Series they watch in their free time.

A note on Japanese audiences: They’re silent. Sure, I was warned ahead of time that they wouldn’t be yelling at the screen or laughing uproariously. I wasn’t prepared for their complete lack of reaction to the film; very time we JETs gasped, or laughed, or mostly just gasped, we did so alone. There was a lady sitting next to me who was completely silent until the credits, when she poked me and shushed me when I whispered to Margaret about how horrifyingly convincing Heath Ledger had been,


During the credits.


First off, we were whispering, and had not done so until the credits rolled. Secondly, what was the obasan so interested in? The music? Go buy the album, auntie. It couldn’t have been that she was actually reading the words rising from the bottom of the screen. I don’t know what the heck a best boy or a gaffer does, and who gives a snow monkey’s liver about Mr. Bale’s driver? Why is Mr. Bale’s driver even given a spot in the credits? I wanted to punch that woman in the mouth. Shushing me. How dare she.

Sunday, August 10

I was all excited about going to an awesome church with an international service in Kyoto. Whoo hoo! I checked hyperdia.com again on Saturday night to make sure I knew my route into the city, and was confused as to why the trip would take two hours. What the heck? I checked again, tried to read my train schedule, and attempted calling the number listed on the site. No deal. Then I looked up the area on the map, and subsequently gave myself a good smack to the forehead.

The church was in Kyotonabe. Not the same as Kyoto. Kyoto is 25 km to the east. Kyotonabe is a two-hour train ride to the south, at the bottom of the prefecture. Dang and double dang. And then, rapturous joy, I lost my internet connection. Blerg! I found the name of a Catholic (listed on the map as Cathoric) church, and another church whose site was completely in Nihongo (there my lack of Japanese goes again, getting in the way), so I admitted defeat for the weekend and resolved to do more research during the week. Church of the Bedside, baby. Members: 1. Service times: after I rub the boogies from my eyes. John Rutter and his choir visited for the offertory.

So, since I had missed church I went with Margaret, Liz ,a prefectural JET in Kameoka, and Todd (some crazy veteran JET from the other side of Kyoto) to a Real*K Hip Hop and Reggae Fest. I could be fudging the title a little, but it was never really clear. Out in the middle of a Nowheresville park was a gathering of Nihonjin who love them some reggae and hip hop. Waiting on a train in Kyoto, I saw this, and thought of my father…

Ah, so much to say. There were a few Djs, one who dropped in a “yeah, yeah,” every time he finished a phrase. It’s kind of funny to hear the Japanese interpretation of ebonics. There were some performers, some who were good, some who were awful, one duo that blew my mind, and a dance demonstration. My favorite were the itty-bitty Tomboy’z Bunny’z, who later went to play in the wood’z. That’s not a joke; the Bunny’z really did go play in the woods. I thought it was funny. The girls in the video were precious, of course, but the chorus of this particular song horrified me. “It’s me, b*tches!” the rapper yells a few times (I’m sure there was other cursing, but it was hard to catch. Plus, the dancing was more interesting than the music). Of course, I can only understand musical swearing in English, so I’m not too worried about those girls growing up scarred and damaged (like Grandma would imagine) because of some incomprehensible yelling. Really, it was only shocking to the Anglophones in the audience. All four of us.

My hair was a big hit. As one of four non-Japanese and the only naturally dark-skinned person in attendance, I think I lent an air of authenticity to the fest. Self-proclaimed (smashed) Japanese Tupac saw my hair, let out an “Ey!” and came to talk to our group. He had very few teeth, and wasn’t taking good care of the remaining ones. Ah, Japanese dental hygiene at its finest. He showed us the Outlaw tattoo on one forearm and Thug Life over his stomach, and I laughed. When I admitted that I preferred Biggie Smalls, he made a bunch of noise and pretended to shun me. Later, while buying shaved ice with Liz and Margaret he appeared out of nowhere for a surprise group hug. So I guess Afro 2, Tupac 0, Nihonjin 0. Tupac’s friend did pull him away, apologizing for bothering us. Nihonjin 1. I also had a kid named Kenji offer to be my Japanese guide and tutor. Poor boy didn’t know what my demurring saved him from, ne? He was in a band that was setting up, and said, “I play the—“ and made an ambiguous typing/wrist-flicking motion. I asked, “Drums? Keyboard?” and wasn’t given a direct answer. Ergo, I was highly amused when that typing motion turned out to be sign language for a synth board. As in, one step up from Guitar Hero, one step down from pianica; an almost-instrument. Afro 3, Kenji 0. Oh well.

Sunday and Monday night I cut up some more futon cover and cleaned out the dish cabinets in my kitchen. I also downloaded Nancy Wilson’s Guess Who I Saw Today and the soundtrack to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Dad, what would my life have been without Nancy? Arigato gozaimasu.

Well, I have decided to separate the next couple of postings so that I can actually do work while at work (guess where I am right now, pretending to type something important in Microsoft Word). The weekday activities will be smushed together, I’ll put up some more video and pictures, and we’ll just have a grand ole time. Even a grande olĂ© time.

And now, since I’ve been sitting here since 8:20 (it’s now 11:15) and haven’t gotten up save to get coffee at 9, I’m going to pretend to go to the bathroom while I actually do lunges in the handicapped stall. Jaa mata!

Engrish Moment, provided by Wanda Coffee by Asahi, Cool Vanilla flavor:

For a rest, enjoy this coffee as a man’s dessert.

Guess the target demographic. You have a 50% chance of getting the right answer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Since I Promised…

I have officially been in Kameoka for a week and a day. Officially. I'm pretty sure that someone is keeping track of it. Here's just an average mountain. Whatever. The BOE, where my main desk is, looms out of sight to my left. SoftBank, who will not let me have a cell phone, also skulks in the western shadows, but on the far side or the street. My apartment is not in sight.

I experienced my first earthquake yesterday morning. I was sleeping soundly when my heart jumped in my chest. I woke up to give my innards the chance to calm down and realized, Hey, the floor is moving under me and the doors are rattling. As I understand it, the side-to-side motion meant that what I and the rest of the city felt was an aftershock, not the earthquake itself. I lay there, feeling the earth rock, and thought, If this weren't completely scary, it would be kind of fun.

I hear that Paris Hilton is finally running for president. It's about time, I say.

For those of you who received an email regarding O-skidimarink, the actual title of the event is Obon. Just wanted to clear that up. There was about an hour of fireworks, during which we all oohed and ahhed from our seat on a blanket in a parking lot. No Stars and Stripes Forever, which definitely was a little rain on the proverbial parade, but I can't remember having ever seen fireworks in the shapes of kanji and children's cartoon characters. I had shaved ice (like a snow cone, but the ice absorbs more of the syrup) and the kid serving it repeated everything we said. "One melon! Two melon! Okay! Alright! Sweet!" I wanted to pinch his cheeks. I also did not win at Bingo, which the crowd played once the fireworks were over. There was a tie for the first prize, a Wii, and the two players had to rock-paper-scissors for it. Not kidding. It's an art form here.

Tomorrow I'll meet the rest of the principals and staff of the schools I'll visit, four in all, after I get tongue-tied and awkward in front of Mr. Mayor. It'll kind of be like meeting the school staff today—I'll bow a lot, smile, apologize every time I hear the word "Nihongo" (Japanese), and tell everyone it's nice to meet them. The mayor will get a present from me, but apparently there are not one, but two vice-mayors, both of whom will get nothing because I was only prepared for one.

Today I was warned about the Japanese centipede, the mukade. These nasty buggers can get to eight inches long, can rear up like cobras, and will actually attack humans. That's right, attack. They are aggressive suckers and quick. A bite will result in painful swelling and needs medical attention. They like to sleep under futons. In my mind, they're a little like the Shrieking Eels, and I am one freaked out Princess Buttercup, which is why I'm still awake at 12 a.m. The mukade are so much worse than the Bogeyman.

Moments in Engrish:

The only really good one from tonight was a shirt that looked like this:


You figure out the inflection on that one.

I'm tired, and am going to sleep even if I do wake up with a giant demon bug under my pillow. Laurel out.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Teeny Tiny Update

For not doing much at work, life has been surprisingly busy. I also lent my two-prong power adapter to another ALT for the night, so I'm losing juice. It's gotta be quick!

I've been hanging out with my fellow JETs at night and writing lesson plans that I'll likely never use during the day. I've seen the gaijin-trap (large shopping area) of Kyoto twice, wandered around Kameoka a little, eaten a lot of bento (pre-packaged lunch box. Everybody's doin' it), and am getting accustomed to being stared at. Let me amend—I do not enjoy it when my mere presence wipes the smiles from children's faces. Sunday afternoon I and three other JETs were sitting on the curb by the convenience store, eating ice cream bars, and we got honked at. Ice cream is the only food that the Japanese will eat while walking, so it wasn't because we were eating. Mayhap because it was the largest group of foreigners this town has seen sitting on a busy corner?

Schedule for the rest of the week:
  • Today: Pretend to be engrossed in making a poster for my self-introduction
  • Tonight: Homemade meal and movie night with other ALTs
  • Tomorrow: Introduce myself to all the principals of the schools. I'm toast.
  • Tomorrow afternoon and Thursday: Bemoan my horrendous self-introduction
  • Thursday night: Watch fireworks display
  • Friday: Introduce myself to the mayor/look like an idiot
  • Friday night and Saturday: See Tomorrow afternoon.

I'll let you know how the jiko shokai's go. I'll likely insult someone's mother, or commit some other faux pas.

Final note: Japanese TV is hilarious for all the wrong reasons.