A series of ups and downs

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sorry for taking so long to write this post ;) I’ve been doing things and when I’m not doing things, I’m sleeping.

I’m slowly learning Japanese. I’m slowly picking up the normal procedures that go on everyday but it is a slow process and I have only been in Kochi for one week. Only one week. I have lost all track of time. It doesn’t feel like forever but it doesn’t feel like a short amount of time.

I have changed quite a bit already though. When I talk to people, I throw the word “maybe” around like it’s water. Maybe is a word that Japanese people love to use when they speak in English. I doubt they understand it’s full meaning. The reason why they use it is because in Japanese usually they’ll say something like “it seems as though” or “I am not certain but…” because the Japanese don’t like to lie so unless they are talking about something that is a hard fact, they will say “maybe”. Perhaps it’s become their habit but constantly they’ll use it inappropriately. For example, the teacher that sits next to me is going to be going to Largo in October. She says “Maybe I am the teacher who will go to Largo” or when I asked what time I should be at work, my supervisor said “Maybe 8:30 would be a good time to go to work” in other words, get your ass to work by 8:30 or something bad will happen. So now when I want something, I’ll say “maybe blah blah will be best”. I get good responses with it. When I am direct, I get blank reactions. I kinda hate it.

When a person is learning a new language, often they will become tired easily because it takes a lot of brain power. This is true. But I find that it’s very tiring to talk in English as well. I have to speak so slowly and so deliberately, that it’s almost like I’m speaking a different language. I have to choose my words carefully and often my true meaning is lost because I use such simple vocabulary. But whatever, if I used more complicated vocabulary, no one would understand and that’s not what I’m going for.

So, on to more fun things!

On Monday night I was invited to the Obon festival in Odochi. Obon is a festival of lights. When the sun goes down, people will place paper lanterns on the water and it makes the most beautiful display. It is to call all the deceased ancestors home by showing them the way with lanterns. There are usually fireworks and the usual festival foods and games. I dressed in the yukata that the first exchange student who ever stayed with us made for my mother. It is a beautiful purple with Japanese fans printed on it. It is a very traditional yukata (summer kimono). Despite it being for summer, it made everything way hotter. But that didn’t matter because I was having so much fun.

Yuumi’s mother, Nishimura Mari, (my host mother from my last visit) picked me up and we went to the house of Shinozaki-san (I should really know her name. She is my favorite person here! She is Sou’s mother) I didn’t realize it but the Shinozaki family lives right next to Odochi high school which is my second school that I visit twice a week. It will be a 50 minute bus ride. If I can get my cell phone working, that won’t be such a bad ride.

Ahhhh yes, my cell phone. I got a very cool cell phone that I paid extra money for because it works as an MP3 player. But I can’t get the software to work on my computer and even if I could, rumor has it that my music won’t play on it anyway because the music is not copy written. I’ll shoot someone straight in the head if that’s the case. The littlest things have been making me want to fly off the handle. I have lost all of my patience because I don’t have anywhere that I can relax. I am always trying to understand Japanese and I am always speaking in simple English. So I don’t have anywhere that I can call comforting. There are small problems everywhere. They add up, ya know? And for most of them, I need someone elses help. I want to solve them myself! Ahhh, it’ll take time.

On the other hand, I love typing on my cell phone (it’s a total love hate relationship). I sent a Japanese message to a friend and it was way easier to write in Japanese than it is in English. Who saw that coming?! Totally not me. But I really like it. One more very good reason to learn Japanese kanji!

So back to the Obon festival. I got there and it was a huge deal! I went into the Shinozaki residence and there was Wakako, Sou’s little sister only she was….9 now? And not 7. It’s a big difference. She was shy around me at first and then warmed up to me. I was happy about that. I saw Sou’s mother and she was the first person to give me a big huge. It felt so good. People in Japan don’t get the whole hugging thing.

Inside was a lot of family members, extended family, and friends. Everyone was sitting on the floor at tables and eating lot’s of food and drinking lot’s of beer. I have never seen so much beer at one table. They should have just pulled out a keg! It was nice to relax with them. It reminded me a little of American get togethers because everyone was laughing, eating, drinking, and being loud. I liked it a lot.

And that’s how my life is these days. A series of ups and downs. The more down I am, the higher I go up by the end of the day…usually.


A list of things that I love about living here:

1. Food. I absolutely love Japanese food. This might sound stupid but as long as it doesn’t have a lot of fish in it, then I love it! Contrary to popular belief there is a lot of food that doesn’t have fish in it. And I don’t even mind the fish. It’s the squid, octopus, and shell fish that I don’t like. Salmon is awesome! But not common. At least as far as I have seen.

2. People. I love these people. They are so kind and understanding. They are quite tolerant too. They have the patience of saints. No lie. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. Japanese children have got to be the most annoying things on this earth but they are so cute that you can’t hate them. It’s a weird mix.

3. My apartment. It’s such a perfect size. I just need to pick things up off the floor and vacuum. It’s much cleaner than I was expecting and there are no bugs. This is awesome!

4. Fellow JETs. I wanted to stay away from JETs as much as possible because I want to learn Japanese and I want to make Japanese friends. I always thought that it was easy to always just hang out with other JETs. But not only is that not going to ever happen because they are so few and far between, but it’s actually a nice breather to talk to a fellow native English speaker. It’s refreshing and it doesn’t happen often. Twice since I’ve been here.

Oh, I met Steven in Odochi as well. He is the ALT for Odochi middle school. Very good guy!

5. The view. Right outside my window is a mountain. Well, there are mountains in every direction. I think I’m living in one big valley. It’s beautiful! I can’t wait for fall when all the leaves change!!!

6. My bike. God how I love riding my bike. It’s a simple granny bike and it squeaks when I push the left brake too hard. Also, the ride isn’t so smooth and so I’ve begun to jiggle in places that have never jiggled before. But despite the mountains, there aren’t a lot of hills in Tosayamada so I don’t really strain anywhere that I go which is nice.

7. Katakana. Katakana is a Japanese alphabet for foreign words. Mostly, they are English words written in Japanese style. It has saved my life countless times. I can go into any store and understand the basic idea of a product because of the katakana unless it’s a completely original Japanese item which will have pictures :)

8. Japanese festivals. By far my favorite thing about Japan. I have been to two festivals so far (wow, in only one week!) and they are wonderful. There are so many people and everyone is having a good time enjoying lot’s of food and beer and each other’s company. Now I just need some Japanese friends to enjoy my time with!

9. My cell phone. I know. It’s a total love/hate relationship but I can get in touch with people so easily and that’s wonderful since I don’t have the internet yet. I love communication!

10. The weather. Surprised? I am too. I really like how in the evenings it’s so cool. The breeze feels fantastic. And as long as I wear the right clothes during the day, the shade can be a lot more enjoyable than the AC. Since I like the warmth so much, I know I’m going to die in winter!!!! I won’t miss sweating though ;)


The principal is having a field day with my employment at Tosayamada high. He loves the idea that I’m from Largo. Personally, I don’t think it’s SUCH a big deal because to me, anyone who was from Largo and wanted to go to Japan would go to Tosayamada. The problem is finding someone who wants to go to Japan (and actually follows through with it) I’ve met plenty of high schoolers who want to do the same thing I am doing!

So, this morning, my principal wasted no time in taking me around to visit the Mayor, and the superintendent of the school board…right? I don’t know. I met the Mayor and some other really important people in the education department.

We all sat in nice offices that were barely air conditioned and drank cold tea (love the cold food stuffs) and they politely talked about me in Japanese. I only caught a few things. It was mostly about my history as a Largo student etc etc.

After all that running around, my principal then had me sit down with a newspaper reporter to talk about my experiences and why I chose to work at Tosayamada. I really don’t think that my presence here is this big of a deal, but I don’t mind the attention…I think… I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m going to be misquoted from translation errors.

For now, I have my first English conversation class to teach. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I usually watch TV until it’s time to go somewhere but I only have 4 channels. You can imagine that they are crap but I’m holding out on getting cable. I want to make friends and I don’t do that in front of a TV screen! I want to go out at night and not sit at home!!! I will succeed!!!!!!

Watch me

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