Friday, May 2, 2008

"I'll be thinking of you in the spring."

As expected, the wireless signal that came from the great unknown has gone back to whence it came, just as mysteriously. So I've been internetless for a few days, until I managed to track down the password for the cable connection.

On Monday the second year teachers and us ALTs (since we sit at their group of desks) went out for a party, since Tuesday was a national holiday. It was a "nomihodai" event which means all you can drink for 5000 yen. I don't care for alcohol, so that was about 40 dollars more than I could possibly consume, but as a method for bonding with my coworkers I'll call it well spent. Plus it was at a Chinese restaurant with delicious food. We were in a beautiful room filled by an octagon walnut table with inlaid shell, and a sparkly chandelier, which my squeamish American heart skittered to see smoke curling about later in the evening (70% of men smoke here, and indoors is perfectly normal, but it's still a not-in-kansas reminder for me.) The food came in huge platters on a round-about, and we had several little tiny plates. I had a lot of disturbingly bright green but delicious melon soda. There was only one teacher who spoke English, so I think all of us were a bit scared it would be awkward, but even the ones who never talk to me loosened up. They'd sorta talk to me one at a time, and brag to the others "I had a conversation with the gaijin!" and the others would go, "Oh yeah? Then what did she say?" "Um... she said hot dogs in America are really big?" "Uso! (You lie!)" and laugh at each other. They also let me practice my broken Japanese on them and laughed at me, though I also got a lot of "Kawaii!" (Cute!). They were quite impressed that I've read Japanese novels - never mind in translation - but they teased me a bit for liking a certain pop singer (even though he's really too incredible for labels; ). One - who apparently never smiles outside these parties - performed impromptu gymnastics. Oh man,  I should have written this up as soon as I got home because there was so many little priceless moments, but I've forgotten now. All in all it was a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the most memorable part was also the most unpleasant. When people started making motions to their coats, one of the older teachers said something very sharp to a younger - I thought they were joking as they had been all night so I let out a small laugh but everyone went dead silent. And the next fifteen minutes were some of the most uncomfortable of my life, as the younger man got a severe dressing-down. Now I don't speak the language, but I know the word for a senior at work/school - sempai - and that they take this seniority very seriously. Japanese doesn't have real insults, but it has nice ways to say "you" and very not nice ways, and I know the latter when I hear them. Evidently the junior didn't show enough respect, and was attacked for it while the rest of us lowered our heads and waited for the flood to recede. There was nothing I could do as an outsider, but I thought, "If they ignore this happening, if this is normal, if this is one of those many things about Japan that can't be helped - shoganai, as the company keeps telling us - I'm going to be very disappointed." But I was comforted when one of the men gently poured the inebriated senior into a taxi, while another patted their blinking comrade on the shoulder, and the women, in the privacy of their cars, burst out, "Bikkuri shita! Kowai!" (That was a surprise! Scary!) and rubbed their arms exaggeratedly. It was one of those "Well... so that happened" experiences.

Hmm, tried paying a gas bill at the post office. There's an English option at the machine, but it has noticeably less buttons than the Japanese one. For instance, the "transfer money" to pay utilities button is missing. This time K-sensei kindly assisted me, but I should learn to recognize the buttons I'll need if I'm doing this every month. Rent will be taken from my salary, so I don't have to worry about paying in cash.

I got the package with the CD - thank you. I'm not sure what hot-cold stress the postal system puts things through but the chocolate had acquired a very interesting texture - I ate it anyways.

Ah! I bought a bike. I figured it'd be nice to have just in case I wake up late, and it was only 115/00 of which the company reimburses 100/00. But mostly, because next week with the famous "Golden Week" holidays, during which I have no classes. and if I'm stuck at home during that time - plus the summer vacation in August - I might go insane. so I'm hoping to maybe bike to another town over.

Today was a six-class day - the whole week seemed very long. Sorry this isn't very well written - I'm rather tired and more than ready for the week off.

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