FYI, I had this finished two days ago, but I misplaced the cord to connect my camera to the computer. Plenty has happened since I wrote this text, but that's for another post. Please be enjoying.
If the tone of my most recent posts has seemed gloomy, it's because I've been in a slump. For the past three weeks or so I haven't cooked, cleaned, or cared to do so. Perhaps at the end of the semester all the stress of working caught up to me at once. Maybe it was the gloomy weather.
I'll tell ya'll sumthin', though. A little church time does me a whole lot of good. It's a dog-eat-dog world and we can't truly rely on anyone but ourselves, we're told. On Sunday I was reminded that the being who created everything at which I marvel is my provider, the one who fights my battles, and the one who brings me peace. Though the lethargy didn't really leave until Tuesday (which was my own doing) I can now say that I am past that stage. Yeehaw, kids!
Oh, are you looking for proof? Here's your pudding:
On Wednesday I learned that my supervisor and sub-supervisor both would be transferred to other departments come April. My supervisor won't even be in the same building anymore. I'm sure that their new positions involve promotions, and am forcing myself to be happy for them. Still, I have no idea what I'll do without those two men. They've been an integral part of the ALT support system and are just plain wonderful gentlemen. There has been many a time that they've gone above and beyond their duties to help me and the other two foreigners. I don't think either of the new members who will replace them speak English. WHADDAMIGONNADO?
That night I didn't have calligraphy, so I did all of my laundry, and dishes. I've been in the process of potting plants for the last month or so (I am lazy), but I finished all but the repotting of my pepper plant. I am awesome. Now I have plants on my back porch, something of a terrarium on my windowsill, and I'm slowly returning green to the the front of my apartment. There used to be azaleas there, but last summer the folk in charge of my residence had the bushes ripped out. The azaleas were replaced by concrete and gravel, which turned the already-bland building into an eyesore. I'm hoping that some of these things grow big enough to participate in the upcoming Man vs. Nature battle of spring. I'll put pictures up later, when they don't look all scraggly.
As a treat for my good behavior that night I started watching The Good The Bad The Weird. It's a Korean film that will soon be released stateside, according to Apple.com's movie trailers. I haven't watched many western films—a couple of John Waynes, Sukiyaki Western Django (a cowboy version of Japan's War of the Roses and a tribute to spaghetti westerns rolled into one bleak, bloody movie) and Once Upon A Time In The West—but this film might be my new favorite in the genre. Given the amount of gunfire that was exchanged I figured that all my favorite characters would die in the end. I hate those movies. I root and root for the plucky good guys who seem to prevail against all odds, and then someone shoots them in the head and the wrong guy gets the girl. Spoiler alert: It happened in Once Upon A Time In The West and The Departed and Sukiyaki Western Django. Still, about a third of the way through I thought, What the hay; I don't care if everyone dies in the end. I'm just enjoying the ride. That is the best compliment I could give to a film, given that my personal DVD collection is all Disney movies, comedies, and one HD documentary on dolphins.
After hanging on through the breakneck pace and guffaw-worthy antics of the main characters, I was pleasantly surprised at the ending. More accurately, I never saw it coming. Though the theater version probably has much a much better translation, there is a version on this website that was subtitled by fans. If you have a free evening, this will not be a waste of time. I was afraid it would be like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in that it would be filmed beautifully, but every so often someone would end up with a blade sticking out of his forehead and I'd want to toss a few cookies. True, there were some moments that made me a bit too squeamish to watch, but in retrospect The Good, The Bad, The Weird is mostly bark and not a lot of bite. The bark is violence and the bite is blood and watching heads roll.
Thursday was wickedly productive. I was up on time, made myself a real bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, and looked darn good in my black skirt and purple sweater. I bought coffee on the way to work, worked on the Ganbatte Times website, and continued my new project. This project is reading the letters from my students. One letter from a 6th grader takes about an hour for me to translate. I have about one hundred of these. In spite of my general ineptitude in regards to Japanese, I have resolved to read and understand these letters. Good thing, too, because I realized that one class of 6th graders misunderstood my pictures and gesturing, and now believe that bison were a gift from the French. Don't worry, they'll be at one of my junior highs in April, so I can set them straight.
That Tuesday night I made what I'm going to call MidWest Twice-baked Taters. Typing that, I realized that tater is not considered incorrect spelling, and shows up in my dictionary. Hooray, country talk! I scooped out the insides from a baked potato that I had prepared earlier in the week, mixed it with the taco meat, sour cream, and some Monterey Jack cheese. I piled it all back into the potato skins, stuck it in the microwave for a bit, then topped it with sour cream. It was, as my people would say, duhli-yushus.
The weekend was the weekend. It was good. Kim invited me to attend a marching band performance at an elementary school that I used to visit last year. I had accidentally mixed up my dates when I was teaching at this school and had missed the previous year's performance. I decided to show my support, given that even the youngest members would have been my students, and therefore would at least remember my face. The Minamitsustujigaoka Elementary School Blue Angels Marching Band is made of female students in grades 2 and up. Eight of the students were graduating 6th graders. They are the cutest thing since puppies.
Here's the Blue Angels playing ABBA's "Dancing Queen."
Now "Memories" from the musical CATS by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
And finally, "I Could Have Danced All Night," which came embarrassingly close to making me tear up, and for no good reason other than that I was so impressed.
Smack me if I ever badmouth the music education system over here.
Sunday was good fun churchy times. Margaret's older sister and brother-in-law were in town, and Sunday night was the only time that M and friends and family could dine together. It also happens that the last Sunday of the month is when Kyoto Assembly has its prayer meeting time. I looked at my watch as the pastor was finishing his announcements and realized that I would have to run for my train. As I gathered my things and stood up I heard, "We'll start the prayer time right after this, so please don't leave."
Oops. Well, the Korean barbecue was delicious.
Yesterday was slightly less productive that I would have preferred, but I blame that on my body clock. I woke up in the morning thinking it was the morning of the Sabbath. I planned on keeping it holy with rest, and so ignored what I thought was my weekend alarm. I did not realize my error until 8:10, which is five minutes before I need to leave. Thankfully I had prepared my bags, clothes, and breakfast the night before, but thanks to the restaurant my hair smelled like grilled meat. I got to work about three minutes late, still dripping. My presence clearly relieved some worries over my absence, so I explained to the bilingual audience as best as I knew how.
"I'm sorry!" Low bow. "Asa ni, atashi wa," mime waking up and stretching. "Ah, nichiyobi! To omoimashita." My coworkers, Japanese and Oklahoman alike, thought this was hilarious. The translation boils down to "I thought it was Sunday," but I think the combination of my acting and bad Japanese was what sent my section into chuckles. I was forgiven.
Waking up late threw my whole schedule off, and to top it off the weather was positively Oklahoman. It was sunny in the morning, then it rained a little before lunch, then it was sunny again, then it snowed so heavily that we couldn't see one hundred feet outside the office window, then a wintery mix and arctic wind battered us on the way home. Call me a pansy if you will, but it was too cold to put my feet on the floor. I stayed in bed and watched episodes of Parks and Recreation until it was time to go to taiko.
Now it's Tuesday again. I was on time to work, read a couple of letters, and I wrote this lengthy-derriere blog post. My friend Michie, a teacher with whom I worked at a junior high school, is being transferred to a different city for a full-time teaching position. Dara, Kim and I are going to meet Michie at Kameoka's most popular Italian restaurant, Louisiana Mama. You read that right.
If you'll excuse me, I have some over-eating to do.