Saturday, April 19, 2008

rear view mirror

ah, 4:25-4:27 pm. the crucial moments when my peaked motivation to work out loses the match against an aggressive desire to curl up with some hot cocoa. the cocoa wins again.
this week marked the first Wednesday of Endless Exhastion. i haven't had a day of four classes since my first year here, and then i was just trying to keep my head from spinning off. now i'm supposed to make a more meaningful contribution, and i'm working under some very suspect leadership. yesterday i realized the head teacher, who was making master copies of my worsheet for the other teachers, had copied it with my post-it notes to him still covering it! way to go. the fact that he didn't realize it was more disturbing.

the day started off good with a quiet but attentive third year class. these precious young adults were freshman during my first year, so it's like we've grown up together. now they're chic and sleek and ready to rock. it was downhill from there.
a few teachers i work with still struggle with the difficult "r" versus "l" decision when spelling english words and end up writing stuff like "crass member" on the seating chart and expect me not to take that as an innuendo. my students' papers were interesting too, as they always are. i got "i have a god named popo" for the dyslexic or possibly heretical prize of the day. one student told me he has a pretty おしり (butt), and since one boy wouldn't fill out sentences about himself, i wrote on his paper, "my behavior is not good," and "i am girl-crazy," which he then had to read to the class for the game. fun times!
after that class, i was so exhausted i practically fell headfirst into my lunch...and i still had half a day to go.
the rest of the week wrapped up quickly, and on friday afternoon i got to join a japanese painting a student! though watercolor is not my strongest medium, it felt amazing to get my hands dirty again. i am now an official member of the class and must answer roll call with, "hai!"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

it's getting drafty in here

well, the internet at school is messed up, meaning i may or may not be able to post this, and there doesn't seem to be any option for adding pictures. not really sure what's going on with the old information superhighway, but i just found out from the surprised look on my partner teacher's face that she wasn't expecting me in our lesson, so i officially have nothing to do for the rest of the day, lucky!
consequently, i have way too many drafts of incomplete entries languishing on the outskirts of my consciousness, so i'm trying to get around to them.

bad news of my week:
i guess i accidentally rented a movie for less than one full day, somehow. that means when i turned it in the next day it was already late. not a good deal. this bothered me immensely because i had a sneaking suspicion that the emphatic clerk was trying to warn me about something, but i couldn't understand him. then i turned in the movie as usual, and hours later received a call from probably the same clerk that my video had been late. the poor guy--the conversation was positively monosyllabic on my end as i tried to wade through the polite language and get to the bottom line. i answered in confused grunts and random english words that floated uselessly in the air like invisible balloons.
the bottom line: he wanted 260 yen for his trouble.

crocs threaten to single-handedly ruin the fashion sense of japan. i have seen hot twenty-something men in full, fabulous, cutting-edge suits wearing ORANGE crocs not once but twice this week. i don't care how comfortable they are, people, they make your feet look blobby and cartoon-sized. ugly! ugly! ugly!

i have a cold sore. i guess the stress of not teaching for four blissful weeks is getting to me.

good news of the week:
i looked up how to say "yesterday i turned in a video late." so when i returned to the rental store, i looked like an old pro with the late fees, and i had a spectacularly simple interaction with a different clerk who collected the fee, and (for once) i didn't look like an ass.

i planted a mini herb garden and some flowers. rosemary for stew, cilantro for mexican food, mint for mojitos. carnations for the smell, and black pennie nemophila because i've never seen such an exquisitely simple black flower. now i just need some basil.

my new friendship with kino, which might have been reduced to enkai-only behavior, seems to be going somewhere. i mean, the guy is like a new breed entirely. i honestly have never met a japanese guy like him. i am floored by how completely unintimidated he is of me. finally some guts! finally someone i can harass. :) on a similar note, me and mr. wisteria have a nice daily dance around the elephant in the staff room. at least the jumping away from me is over, and he seems to be going out of his way to be cordial. just yesterday he kindly told me i should wait inside the office for my fellow teacher and to please take a seat and relax. he's good at being attentive, but i fear i will never see anything more of who he is. shame.

Friday, April 04, 2008

muffin top

thanks to diminishing inseam lengths of jeans and the ineffectiveness of belts on such styles, i realized i have unconsciously divided my pants into sitting pants and standing pants. sitting pants are safe for work and crouching on tatami, standing pants are hot but must be rocked on foot, only on foot. japan is not cool with errant panty bands. side note: the pendulum swings both ways, though, as high-waisted jeans are once again gaining popularity in japan. horrors!
friday was the yearly school barbecue under the cherry blossoms, and i decided i needed to go home and change my jeans unless i wanted to reveal to my new colleagues the plunging curve of my bottom cleavage. not exactly the first impression i wanted to make. since the young teachers i know well are gone to different schools, i was feeling a bit dejected and socially awkward as i tried to find a ride. i felt like such a burden, and i thought several times of just skipping it altogether.
but......last year it was so rad! it's hard to make a barbecue formal, so everyone was really relaxed (read:drunk) and you know, people are much more likely to tell you their secrets under a dark sky. whose secrets could i learn this year? so i bit the bullet and boarded the party bus. i mean, literally, i got on the bus bound for the party. i went straight to the back and met a young newbie named kino. i know many kind and generous japanese folks who would walk a mile to do you a favor, but i would still not describe most of them as warm. kino is warm. his lack of aversion to sitting next to me (and touching me) was truly unique. it was like his third day in town, and he went to great lengths to make me, a perfect stranger, comfortable.

much to my disgruntlement, i ended up at the same grill as mr. wisteria. i prepared myself to be actively ignored, but, what's this? he's looking right at me! i only had to wait four months for him to get drunk enough to talk to me again. in short, we really have good times when we have times at all. he told me he learned the word "yummy" from sesame street! this guy is like 34 years old, and he remembers learning english from sesame street? did they air sesame street in japan? the mystery of mr. wisteria grows and grows. he even told me his favorite character was big bird! ~_~
i stand corrected, apparently sesame (whoa! i keep typing "sexame") street has been in japan three decades. i found this tidbit particularly amusing, "A few established Sesame Street characters also appear in new segments, most notably Elmo, who in the Japanese series has a propensity to cry and is used heavily to deal with emotional issues." hahaha! no, Tickle Me Elmo here! it's Wet Blanket Elmo for japan.

anyway, i romped around with all my new friends, lit with glee that i finally got to talk to mr. wisteria again. maybe, just maybe, we can manage to talk again without beer or awkwardness. the party adjourned, i got back on the party bus, and we headed back to school. i followed kino to his friend's house where the guys argued over who was the most sukebei (lewd) and hentai (perverted). haha...just like last year. after a consultation with my electronic dictionary, mr. templetail told me that the girl sitting next to me had "big boobs." i couldn't resist; i taught him to say "nice rack!" i know, i'm sorry everyone. i could have taught him to say something respectful, but it was just so damn funny to hear him chirp "nice rack!" over and over again.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

the weirdest festival i ever loved

many cultures have fertility festivals, right? right.
i was convinced (internally kicking and screaming) to attend the hōnen matsuri, or "fruitful year" festival, more accurately dubbed the penis festival. what can i say? curiosity got the better of me, but i was expecting lewd and obnoxious behavior from the crowd, so i planned to hang back and pretend like i just happened to be four hours north of my home on a saturday morning.
feeling silly getting off the train, i trudged after the streams of people with angie and kjersten, but i was soon disarmed by the atmosphere. i think everyone, japanese and foreigner alike, were just curious and a bit shy at the prospect of facing the centerpiece of the festival: a ten foot long wooden penis-in-a-shrine (much like pigs-in-a-blanket). naturally i had to take a picture with it. who would believe me?
the side view.

up close and personal.

the tough part behind us, we descended on the food booths with passion. never in my life have i met a potato i didn't love, and never before had i met a potato i loved more than the fried spiral potatoes i found there.

the memorable sculpted, chocolate-covered bananas.

my favorite part of the festival was definitely just sitting in the sun watching sheepish japanese guys suck on their blue penis-shaped suckers.

a grinning old man took polaroids of us with the impressive phallus which printed on mickey mouse paper, naturally. walt disney turns over in his grave.