Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Day, Another Yen

Note: All these pictures are random tidbits of life in Kameoka, specifically my walk from the bus to Ikushin Chugakko, a taiko performance, a boat ride down the Hozugawa, sightseeing at Nara and Fushimi Inari and some leaves (then to where we ended up after exiting Fushimi Inari the wrong way). I know I can create a photo album on my blog, but I haven’t the patience to figure it out with slow-as-molasses-in-winter internet. So maybe I’ll add that to the list of Christmas projects.

8:05 a.m. Since crawling off the futon at 6:10 this morning I have done the following:
• Washed a large pot and a tupperware
• Showered
• Warmed my unmentionables by the kerosene heater for a toasty post-shower transfer
• Cooked pasta
• Put on some clothes
• Cooked shrimp
• Ate breakfast
• Put the pasta and shrimp with the Alfredo sauce I made last night
• Found more Christmas stickers for greedy teenagers
• Collected my stuff for the day
• Caught a bus at 7:04
• Finished Water for Elephants, which had an amazing surprise ending and rendered my stomach in(to?) knots for two days.
• Realized that I left my fork at home
• Brushed my teeth

My schedule for the day was changed, so I’ll be teaching the first and fourth periods rather than third and fourth. That leaves a nice long gap for me to twiddle my thumbs and work up the courage to ask if there’s a piano I could use. Then I will hang around after lunch until 2:30, walk down to the bus stop, catch the bus at 2:40, and get a headache on the way to the BOE.

The Board of Education will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I get to figure out how to Skype my grandma on her birthday (readers, don’t tell her). I get to try to find pictures of quintessential American Christmas with the system blocking all Google Images and other image searches, any site that sells any good or service (I almost typed “nantoka” instead of any. Oh, Japan!), and anything that resembles a blog including news. I will be awkward whilst handing out mini candy canes to my coworkers and the superindendent (I know I have to give him one, too, but it’s scary). I will awkwardly inquire about my schedule for the following year while my supervisor awkwardly mumbles in a voice quieter than a sixth grade girl’s, just to tell me that they won’t have it until I come back. It’s going to be an awkwardly awesome time.

I’m in a pre-departure mode of constant anxiety. All I have to do is think about everything that needs to be done before I leave and I start to panic a little. I have mapped out every chore on my iCal, from when I’ll pay my rent (Friday, payday, because I’m smart) to when I’m going to cook what for meals (Saturday will be my last box of Mac and Cheese, Sunday morning will be yakisoba to finish of the perishable foods). I make list after list in my free time, trying to both do my job and leave the country for three weeks. Trash to take care of, food to cook and eat, dishes and laundry to do, packing to organize (internal debate: Do I only bring one week’s worth and plan on raiding Express while home, or anticipate complete lack of transportation and unwillingness on part of my relatives to brave the traffic?), vacation schedule to organize (I won’t sleep for the first week or so, what with company and my body clock being all wacky), travel arrangements to finalize, and Christmas pictures to find and activities to plan because yeah, I still work.

On top of that I have omiyage (souvenirs) to buy for everyone and their dogs, including the 60 people from the BOE, my aikido class (20 head), my shodo class (15), my taiko group (20), the people at church (40), and a box of something for each of the 10 schools (just one big box, warn the folks who hate sweets to stay away). On the way back I will be transporting a whole suitcase full of Dove chocolates. Full. Suitcase. Whole thing. I will line a carry-on with plastic wrap, empty 20 bags of individually-wrapped chocolates into it, then seal it up. That’s how they do things over here. Go away and get some tiny food for everyone you know. You know, I think I just solved my clothes debate: two empty suitcases and a weeks worth of underwear stuffed in my coat pockets on the way to the states. Two suitcases full of chocolate (and a couple boxes of Mac and Cheese for me) and coat pockets full of underwear on the way back. Can’t wait for customs.

I’m so darned excited about the holidays. I start singing “Comin’ Home for a Tulsa Christmas” to myself, only to realize that those are the only words I know, and I’m not to sure of the melody either. The lady who walks her dog past my bathroom window every morning probably knows all the words to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by now, seeing as how it’s number 1 in the Scrubby-Time Ballad Line-Up. I have beautiful images in my head of how I’ll get off the plane in Tulsa and have my family waiting for me. A barbershop quartet will start singing the number 1 Scrubby-Time Ballad while I race to the opening arms of my parents and brother (and whoever else shows up, hopefully a crowd) and collide in a happy tangle of hugs without breaking anyone’s glasses. No one will steal my bags and my computer will not break when I drop said bags to do aforementioned racing, and then a concert band will strike up “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” while we have a massive group hug and jump up and down. There will be lots of face kisses, big hugs, and then I will be swept out the door to be fed and my back massaged on the swift ride home. Then no one will whine when I fall into bed, completely exhausted from my 30 hour day. At least, that’s how I hear it goes when someone hasn’t seen their home folk for five months or more. When I was only four months away I got off the plane with a huge smile on my face to find no one there. Won’t lie. It was very sad. So let’s make it different this time, folks. Running and embracing. That’s the goal.

11:24 a.m.
So anywho, I have a Christmas lesson to plan for a handicapped class tomorrow. I also have a class to teach in 20 minutes and an Eigo shaberunai music teacher to ask about using the piano during 5th period. It’ll go something like this:

Me: Ah, uh, sensei, sumimasen.
Music no sensei: Hai.
Me: Anno, ettone, ah (scratch head and look apologetic), chotto muzukashi…5th hour, anno (show 5 fingers), anno, ah…music class (pronounced mu-jhi-ku cu-ra-ssu)?
Music no sensei: Eh…
Me: Piano? (Point to nose and make tapping motions with fingers) Daijobu desu ka?
Music no sensei: Ah! Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese, anno, Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese-sen. Gomenasai. Ehhh, sorry.
Me: Iie, daijobu desu.

Much bowing, waving hand in front of face, and saying that’s it’s all okay, the room is busy. Then I will return to my desk and sit there for the next hour, wallowing in sorrow.

I finally got enough courage to go look for the music teacher, only to find that he was most likely out with the baseball team. I asked if I could use the piano and was strongly encouraged. Of course, of course, let’s find the key for you, Ryan-san. Oh, wait, this teacher is leaving and will take you to hot, stuffy City Hall. Do you want to stay and play piano, or go to the City Hall?

Be proud of my weary, defeated heart, good townsfolk. Despite the wild wolf cry of “PIANOOOOOO!!!” that welled at the back my throat and threatened to overwhelm all sense of duty and responsibility. But duty is before all! So back to the BOE I go with itchy fingers and the Minuet in F looping in my brain.


  1. Good post, Ryan-san. I know 6 more words you can add to Tulsa Christmas at the end of some phrase: "...it's the only Christmas for me." OOOO! Just remembered more! "Oh they say there's more snow up in Colorado than your roof will ever see..but blah blah Tulsa Christmas is the only Christmas for me." Holler. I had a million other things to comment on, but now I forget them all. I'll be back. wacker

  2. OH! How awesome was "Water for Elephants"?? That ending had my stomach in knots, too. I just didn't see it coming! Your pictures are awesome. They make Japan look so appealing. I'm feeling sick today. I might call in sick tomorrow. "thonglit", Blogspot? Really???

  3. Also, I do like the homecoming picture you painted for me. Concert band and all. Feel free to just have a jazz trio/quartet waiting for me when I get home. I don't want you to have to pay all those musicians TWICE. Oh, it's "surowe" now...like sorrow cause I'm not with you. waaaaaa.

  4. Hey, I'm just gonna post a million bajillion times! Oh wait, that's Gillian's job, apparently. Yo, we'll get the freaking Booker T. Funky D's up in that piece and we'll be bouncing to the beat! Well, I might just beatbox some stuff, but it'll be close.

  5. Love, love, love the pictures! Beautiful fall colors! I hope the homecoming is much more satisfying than coming home from France, complete with Srubby-time ballad number one!