17 December 2007

Japan is starting to make sense.

AKA: A Proper Update

It's been a little while since I've written an update, so ... here goes.

29 November - Midyear ALT Meeting
We have a lot of meetings, we JETs. They're a lot of fun, though, because it's a great chance to meet up with a lot of people I met during orientation in Tokyo, as well as hang out with other ALTs from my town. So that was fun.
What wasn't fun was popping the tire on the back wheel of my bike on the way to said meeting. Oops.

30 November - Parent Visitation Day
My teachers wanted to know how to say the above in English, and I told them that there was no such thing. This was like an Open House, but on a regular day of school - thus, teachers had to perform for both students and parents. The PTA here wields a lot of pressure/power, so it was a tense day for the teachers. Still, things went well and my parents seemed to enjoy the lesson I had prepared.

1 December - Kiryuu's Flea Market
Kiryuu is a town near Ota that is famous for its textile industry. On the first Saturday of every month, they have a flea market where various antiques and fabrics are sold. Caitlin and I spent several hours and lots of money there. I ended up buying a gift for my dad and a beautiful silk kimono (for, I later found out, about a third or a fifth of their normal price). Afterwards, we rode a cute little diesel train to visit Garrett and Natasha, with whom we had a delicious Italian dinner.

2 December - Guitar and Mandolin Concert
One of my teachers invited me (in October or early November - wow!) to see her in a concert. Her daughters picked me up and we went to lunch, where we talked about lots of things and the food was delicious. I only found out when we arrived at the concert hall that my teacher played the mandolin, and that this was a guitar and mandolin concert. It was a lot of fun, as I've only heard a mandolin played once or twice, and only one. Hearing a concert featuring half mandolins and half guitars was a real treat. We also explored a large library, which was awesome. I'll have to make my way back there sometime.

7 December - Goodbye, Tea Lady / Brazilian what now?
The Tea Lady at my middle school had to quit her job to be able to better take care of a sick child. Tea is an important part of the daily life here, being fixed at least three times a day for all of the teachers. Even in summer, the first drink of the working day is a cup of hot, green tea. Anyway, I was really sad, as she was a wonderful lady. I had been making her a Christmas present (an English Conversation notebook, as she said she wanted to learn more English), so I rushed it and gave it to her before she left. She seemed happy to receive it.

I don't remember if I had mentioned it before, but there's a large diaspora of Brazilians in my town. It's somewhat bizarre, to me at least, that I am more often thought to be Brazilian than anything else in this town. Anyway, I went out with a bunch of people on Friday night to eat at a Brazilian restaurant, which was delicious and a lot of fun. I spoke a little Japanese, and was complimented for my accent. :D

12 December - Early Christmas
I went to Ota proper with Caitlin on Wednesday evening to do some shopping. We first went to Yamada Denki (Yamada Electronics), a fun little place where a 4 year-old girl's voice randomly yells "Yamada DEN-KI!" every few minutes and where one can find anything that requires a plug or a battery. Here I bought myself an early Christmas present - a 160 GB iPod. Merry Christmas to me!
After this, we went into J-Plaza (a sort of mall), where I was looking for the rest of the pieces to go with the kimono I bought at the Kiryuu flea market. I ended up not buying anything for it, as all of the accessories (I was told) would cost me around 10 times what I paid for the kimono itself. I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I'll be at the flea market again next month, looking for as many of the parts as I can get there.

15 December - Love and Peace Party
Some of my friends here invited me to a Love and Peace (international) party. $12 for the ticket got me all the food I could eat and all I wanted to drink, as well as a full face of Brazilian T and A.

Garrett and Natasha went with, as well as their friend Dave, and we had a lot of fun.
Afterwards, we went into Don Quixote (a Wal*mart of sorts here), where I found the love of my life: a sewing machine for $27. It's a pretty simple machine, but it gets the job done.
As we were heading back to the trains, we ran into a few other ALTs who were heading to a party. Dave and I joined them for an hour before heading back to the station and making our way home.
I was sitting on the train, waiting for it to take off (sometimes the trains will sit at a station for 10 minutes or so, for various reasons) and enjoying my iPod, when a yellow blur suddenly plopped down right beside me. Now, this train was less than full, and the Japanese are pretty good about not sitting remotely near anyone if they don't have to, so I was decently surprised/alarmed. Luckily for me, it was David, another ALT in my town, and the rest of the time on the train was spent in fun conversation with him.

Yesterday - Crafts 'R' Us
I went nuts with my sewing machine...I shouldn't be allowed to have things that make crafting so easy. Anyway, here's the before (gotta love the tank-top being so long from under it 'cause it was too short):
and the after:

I wore the re-made sweater to school today, and it was a big hit. The teachers went nuts when they found out I made it. :D (Even better - I originally bought the sweater at a Salvation Army for $3. Sweet!) Also, our new tea lady arrived, and she seems nice. It's fun to see her learn the ropes; it gives me a chance to learn what a tea lady does, other than making tea.

And, to close, a quote from one of my classes (I've been teaching about Christmas):
Me: "So, 'Saint Nicholas' is Santa's real name."
Student: (in Japanese) "So, Nicholas Cage is 'Santa Cage'?"