Monday, June 25, 2012
25th - Day after returning from Thailand. Adam picked me up traipsing along a highway complete with an entire Thailand backpack. I walked nearly all the way into the city from the outskirts! I heard later that my vice principal had seen me, but he was playing pachinko (fake Japanese gambling) and said I looked happy. Went to Udo Shrine with Adam. It's a beautiful shrine set in a cave right on the coast. The history is that a man lived there for awhile, can't remember why. But he was sustained by water dripping from a rock, which now equates to a shrine of fertility and is meant to bless women with babies. Needless to say I kept far away from any and all rocks. Beautiful place though! Glad I could show it off to someone.
October 1st - Finally climbed the mountain by my house!!! I've been trying to climb this sucker for a year and always getting hopelessly lost/tired. It took us about 5 hours I think. The entire way was on a road, so we had to watch out for zooming cars. We also took rests on said road, sometimes stretched out across it. We got to the top, and Adam got me to take a photo of him swinging on the entrance to the shrine. It broke. This thing is meant to signify the entrance to heaven, so basically Adam broke heaven. Nice. We split a bottle of wine and some biscuits, and watched the sun set over Obi and Nichinan. It was beautiful. We explored the top of the mountain, and then realised that it was getting dark and we should hurry down. We started loping down the mountain and made it in a couple hours, in the dark for the last 45min or so. Insanely sore knees but the wine helped. Upon getting home we saw that there was a train heading to the city in 30min, so we carried on (walking) to the station and then went to the city, where I held onto a table to dance because my legs hurt so much. All in all, an excellent day.
Sometime that week: A conversation I had with my supervisor about omiyage (gifts of snacks). Him - "It is very easy to kill teachers. Probably if you put something poison there (the omiyage table) ...we will eat."
Weekend: Dinner, drinks, karaoke. Sang T.A.T.U with Jess outrageously. Stumble home.
To Nobeoka! Hung out with Dohwa on the train for drinks and beautiful scenery. We met Tracey and had a "picnic" which involved discreetly pouring vodka and juice into cups and drinking it. Then we all sat down for a "Noh" performance. This is a traditional Japanese play where the people chant reaaaaaaallllyy slowly and move slowly on the stage. It was interesting and I'm glad I saw it. We left halfway. No regrets.
Izakaya (food and drinks place) outrageous conversation with Nico, drinks in the park, and then home to Tracey's.
Next day: Walked around Nobeoka with Adam for awhile. Watched fishermen over a bridge. While waiting for our train at the station we got a delicious crepe, and chatted with an alcoholic who told me that being totally free (as we bragged we were) wasn't good because to take a road alone was not good. Interesting. He also said that he had learnt English in school (he was 58) and he practised what he remembered on us. Then he told me something that blew my mind, which was that we were the first foreigners he had ever talked to. This is what our lives in Japan are all about, and aside from teaching kids this is probably the thing I feel like makes everything worth it.
Took the train down the coast, decided to get off at Hyuga (coastal town) and discovered that it was actually kindof a hub of tourism! We got a couple drinks and went for a walk in search of the sea, which unintentionally took hours. Granted, we did stop at every park to play and every conbini to get food/more drinks. Finally, we heard the ocean and after plunging into some ominous trees (it was now dark) we emerged on the other side right on a beach! The moon was out and making the sand look white and cool, so we sat down and enjoyed it. Such a lucky night!
After this we wandered up to a shrine which we spied atop a cliff, and startled some pokemon which we tried to take photos of but still to this day can't decide what they actually were.
Train, Miyazaki, sleep.
14th October: Another conversation with my supervisor about his teaching style in which he says, "is not bullying. Education." lol. Also in class I ask, pointing to my stomach (for learning body parts), "what is this?" Students- "BABY!"
I've also been helping a senior with his English test for university. He wrote me a note this afternoon which says (amongst other things) "when I travel, I will think of Tiffany's words." Aww. I love being a teacher.
15th - Went to Fukuoka for a baseball game. Here Jordy taught me how baseball works and how to be an American and we drank beers and yelled obnoxiously. I actually really enjoyed the game!!
18th - Talking to my supervisor about the upcoming mid-year seminar that he should be joining me on. He tells me "I will be sick that day".
22nd October - Went to Cape Toi with Adam! These are huge rolling hills above cliffs over the sea. Absolutely wonderful. To add to this, there are wild horses! They are small and stumpy but we keep our distance and admire from afar. Ish. We climbed a giant hill and watch the sun set together, and I laughed at Adam's shock at all the horse poop. Cityboy. Then we ran down the hill jumping and tumbling like a video game. So much fun! I saw my first light house and we generally ran amok among the hills.
29th - Went to a kids Halloween event, which was super cute. I was one of the "stations" at the event, where tiny kids in costumes had to come and introduce themselves to me for candy. Cutest thing ever. Wish I was an elementary school teacher, but then again I feel like I'd be exhausted all the time.
Also went to an (adult) Halloween party in Miyakonojo, where 3 of us dressed as paper, scissors, and rock. We were a huge hit and despite feeling ill the night was a lot of fun! Hilarious photos abound. But you can't see any because they take too long to load. Soz.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
And so ends my first year in
But the blog does not end here! The incessant daily slogging does, because I’m highly routinised (read: boring) from now onwards, but I’ll be returning to share stories and impressions, you can count on it. You literally can, because I have a full notebook on my trips to
July 25th and 26th Mon-Tues
A week of nothing at work. I have these notes on things I noticed during the day. One of these is the weird little race around the staffroom that teachers will do to avoid each other. It’s as if there isn’t room for us to possibly walk past each other, so as soon as they see me coming they’ll take the first corner they see at a run in order to walk around the opposite side. It’s something I’ve started to be guilty of doing too, but struck me today as looking hilarious and absurd.
Found somewhere in the school is a rotten bento. For some unknown reason it is brought into the staffroom. Every teacher stops to open it, inspect it, and make a comment on it. It smells.
As I’m marking, I lift up a sheet while eating and shake some crumbs off of it in order to continue. One of my teachers starts laughing and miming smearing food and making coffee rings all over his. The secret to adulthood is that there is none.
Only Muqing and I at Jodo, which is unfortunate as the Senseis finally get a good look at how awful I am at it.
Extreme Kendo. “Today, we sweat. Tonight, beer.” He makes me keep going long after I would have given up, long after my body has started faltering. I like that he does this, and that I can do it.
After Kendo I go out to a work enkai. We drive for miles out into the jungle until we reach a tiny wee house in the middle of
At the Nijikai, I drink shochu. When asked to sing I find “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker. What a blast from the past. This is a wonderful karaoke song, as it stays pretty much in one range the entire thing. When I have finished my kendo teacher comes and clinks my glass and makes everyone around me do the same. Haha. I love adoration based on fear.
To work. I’m hungover but there’s nothing for me to do anyway so it’s fine. I read from literally 8.30am to 4pm. At the end of the day I feel motionsick and disorientated. Reminds me of being a kid and spending weeks reading.
Do stuff in the city. Not really sure what. Convenient time to fall off the note-taking wagon.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Finish work at midday and head straight to the city to finish my tattoo. It’s fine for the first few hours, but the last hour is bad as not only is he going over flesh already done, but I need to pee and can’t concentrate on both.
After this I get a coffee and a beer, meet Jords and direct her to an Indian place where we are served greasy wine and stares. I had been here before and liked it, finding the staring endearing, but it seemed worse this time. Not sure if it was because it was under different management, or our time in
Go out for dinner with Kelly and Holly. We go to Gyutaro, which is a really sweet grilled meat restaurant in my town. Sometimes the owner gets drunk and wanders around the patrons. He has my number so sometimes he even drunk dials me to “come play” (Hangout in English only translates into asobi in Japanese, which retranslates back into English as play). He gives us free wine, free ice cream, and when I ask if he brews his own shochu, a free bottle of that as well. I love Gyutaro. Free ice cream not being enough, we go for parfait, and then home.
Feels like a long day. I’m always done teaching by 10.40 on Fridays, which means I have to be creative to make the next 6 hours sing. I’m told about an upcoming medical check, which is called “Kensa”. I’ll never forgot how it went down last year, when, after the test, the school nurse came up to me with the results, brandishing an envelope and saying “Kensa (cancer)? Medical test. Results. Kensa (cancer).” Good lord. Partway through today, my Kyoto Sensei comes up to tell me “I am going to take my shirt off.” Uhh, okay. It turns out he has a stain and wants to rinse it under the tap, but didn’t want to surprise me by just whipping it off behind my chair. I love
Go to Kendo, and have an extreme fight with my teacher in which he gets right in my face, backs me into a wall and doesn’t let me out. Every time I try to push him out of the way he just moves closer. I eventually lose my temper, shove him as hard as I can, duck under his arm and strike his “Dou” point screaming. He just says “sou” (okay/that way) and moves away. Obviously he planned this but I’m elated anyway.
Tonight is Holly’s last night. We all drive up to
We get to the city, go out for food and drinks, where Holly and I order “beauty cocktails” which turn out to be fruit cocktails with COLLAGEN in them. It’s just lumps of jellyfat, basically. We drink them and feel infinitely beautiful. We learn some bad words in Japanese, drop off Holly at her hotel with a final goodbye, and then go to the bar for another drink to feel better. Shin sees me walk in and makes me a drink without even asking. Good man.
23rd July Saturday
Up at 6am. I go to Nichinan in the boiling heat to watch the log races. This is literally a log, in the water, with people sitting on it with paddles. Of course our team is the only foreign one there and we commence to make a spectacle of ourselves with team stretches, squats, and lunges. They get onto their log and Muqing and I cheer and chant. Loudly. By ourselves. We are told in Japanese to stop yelling, we agree, smile, and keep yelling. Shin stands up on the end of the log and pretends to paddle but instead just flicks water over everyone else. We are then filmed and waffle on in English about how much we’ve been practising (we haven’t) and how much this means to us and how we’ve been set back by our complete loss but won’t let it hold us back in the future.
Out for lunch, then home to bed.
At about 8pm I wake back up and get on the train to Aburatsu for the fireworks. As I bike down the road I see fireworks in the sky and realise I got the time wrong by an hour. I get on the train regardless, then a taxi which takes me up a dark hill because the streets are too crowded, where I walk down the other side and manage to catch the grand finale. And it is grand. Like dreams of
I meet up with Brian, Quill, and their girlfriends, we let off some fireworks, and then make the trip to Miyakonojo in Brian’s awesome spacemobile/people mover. They are super nice to me, even offering homemade snacks over the seats. It’s a really harmonious trip.
On arriving in Miyakonojo I walk to Sam’s favourite bar, Old Earth. (The jazz bar from a previous post.) Following this is one of my best nights in
I catch the gossip van home with Matt and Lilly, (the gossip is all me, their characters are irreversibly pure), go for a family jaunt for ice cream, and then our final goodbye at
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
11th July – Monday
Today a teacher comes up to me. “Today is also an important day. Long ago, an important person was born on this day.”
Tonight when I get home I get a call from my friend Holly, who is also leaving soon. Turns out her apartment lease ends two weeks before her job does, so she has nowhere to stay. I set up the spare room (okay I put one futon in it and make her bring her own sheets) and before long I have a new flatmate.
In my notebook in the space where there should be entries for the 12th, 13th, and 14th of July, there is instead this descriptive remark:
“Kendo x3, Jodo x1 Whitebait fritters.”
15th July Friday
Today is my student’s ball games day. We have to bring a bento from home, which I don’t know if you know, but I haven’t made my own lunch like, ever. When I had to as a kid I would get one frozen bun from the freezer and let it thaw in my backpack and eat that like a savage. So I made whitebait fritters with these tiny ass little fish that every foreigner in
I watch the basketball for awhile, and then go and watch the boys play soccer. Some of the third graders seek me out and settle in for a conversation. One of the boys tells me he has no interest in soccer, doesn’t do school clubs, has no interests, has no dream, finds everyone boring, and doesn’t like school. I’m impressed by his English. Then he tells me he wants to be a heart-machine operator in a hospital and draws me a picture. Then they all crowd around and try to teach me Japanese (apparently “muchu” means “to be crazy about” but I must check this), then they try to teach me dirty Japanese, then they try to make me say bad things about their friends, to which I refuse and scold them, telling them to be kind, then one of them tries to make me punch him. Seems like teenage boys are the same all over the world. I’m kindof tempted, so I guess girls are the same too. As we were talking, one of my Kendo students who is really tall, kindof shy but gets animated about Red Hot Chilli Peppers, was standing off to the side offering one or two pieces to the conversation. Then he suddenly jumps in front of me and catches a ball that was zipping toward my face. Kendo saves lives.
When I get home, Holly has made a beautiful (giant) salad that takes two serving size bowls, and we sit on my verandah with our feet up having a drink and watching a giant moon climb over the hill.
Long weekend. We had origionally been booked in for a wheelchair race down south, wherein we get into wheelchairs and compete against an old folks home. It sounded like a huge amount of fun, but unfortunately this was cancelled due to an oncoming typhoon.
So instead we head out for lunch. When we get to the restaurant Shin moves as if to motion me into my seat like a gentleman, then shoves me headfirst into the booth. It’s seven months later and it just made me laugh all over again. We get some beers and go for a lovely summer drive along the coast with my feet out the window. We stop at the river and I jump off a tiny dam after first hyperventilating a little bit, then Shin and Tommy jump off a HUGE bridge into a tiny river. Crazyasses. Such a perfect summer’s day.
We head back, muck around, and remind me of life in Taupo where we know we want to hang out, we just don’t know what to do. We go to an izakaya locally, eat a huge amount of meat, and try to converse in Japanese.
Head to Kushima (down south). We go out, I get piggy backed home by my friend Tommy who is half my size, and then am discovered by Julian on his arrival home fast asleep on the verandah with a blanket on top of me and a full blown typhoon raging all around me.
Typhoon all day!
Typhoon day, so no students come to school. Funnily though, the teachers are still expected to do so. The river as I bike over it has entirely burst its banks and now rages thick and brown the width of the bridge, covering the walkways, the kiddies water park, and all the grass. As I bike up the hill toward my school, the road is covered in bits of trees.