22 June 2009

My name is Leslie, and I love karaoke.

[Seriously. Love karaoke. ]

A few karaoke stories:

1. I made plans in June to go to karaoke with a Japanese friend of mine. The night before, she had an interesting request: her grandparents had overheard that we were planning to go singing together and asked if they could join us. Would that be OK with me?

Well, how many times can you say you've been to karaoke with the 60+ generation?

In the end, our party was made up of 5 people: my friend, her younger sister, their grandparents, and yours truly. We had a wonderful time. The grandparents sang mostly enka, an older Japanese song style. It was my first time hearing enka sung live and not on TV, so I rather enjoyed it. They were also very complimentary of the songs I sang in Japanese, which is always a plus.

2. The past month, I've been to karaoke every weekend. One weekend, I sang with a group for around 5 hours. Just as an FYI: "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Achey Brakey Heart" are hilarious via karaoke. Also, Weird Al does, in fact, have a song or two in the systems here.

3. The term "karaoke" is made up of two words in Japanese - "kara" means empty (karate = "empty hand," a style of fighting with no weapon), and "oke" is short for "okesutura," or "orchestra." I love the idea of karaoke being, in and of itself, an "empty orchestra," one that must be filled with the addition of our own voices.

4. The most recent round of karaoke I've enjoyed was with a large group of my teachers, which was a rather interesting experience. One was really excited at my knowing Billy Joel songs, and spent three of his turns on Joel songs and demanding my assistance with them. Another teacher assisted me in singing the Sailor Moon theme song, something I never thought I'd find useful after my middle school years. Still, nothing can top the principal of my school demanding, rather drunkenly, that I pay close attention while he belted out "We are the Children." There is only one word for such a thing, and that word is "epic."

18 June 2009

Reverse Culture Shock

A few days ago, I popped in a DVD from the second season of the Chappelle Show. The episode opened as it normally does - Chappelle comes out on his carpeted stage to waves of applause from his audience. As Chappelle walked out, my eyes were drawn to his feet, and I thought to myself, "He must have a ton of indoor shoes to have them match his outfit like that."

It was a few seconds before I remembered that most people don't have indoor shoes.

Coming back is going to be "interesting"...

I had a meeting last Friday in Maebashi, the prefecture's capital. It was for JETs, to talk about things we have to do before we leave.

In short, it was one big ball of >STRESS<.

I had a meeting last Monday in Ota, the city I live in. It was for Ota ALTs, to talk about how to teach effectively. It was fun to meet all the new ALTs in my town for the first time, the people who came in April ... but it was also sad, knowing this would be the first and last time I would see them. It felt like I was watching my town speed past me; not waiting for me to leave it, it decided to leave me first.

I went to dinner with several of the older ALTs, though, and had a really wonderful time. We hung out for some two or three hours before making our separate ways home. The rain even waited until I got home before starting to fall.

Now I'm officially done with ALT meetings. I don't have time to feel much about it; I'm too busy preparing for the move. I alternate between stress and loneliness, all against a backdrop of the constant drizzle of the rainy season.

This isn't the way I wanted to leave Japan.

04 June 2009

Walks in the Evening

Sometimes I take walks in the evening, just as the sky is darkening. My favorite places to walk by at those times are the rice fields. Now that the weather is warmer, it's a somewhat dangerous place to be; the standing water produces masses of bugs, many of which seem to enjoy eating foreign food (aka: me). The pay off is worth it, though, because that mixture of bugs and open air allows for the most amazing stunts of bats at feed I've ever seen.

The area I usually pass on these walks has a large set of fields, so I am guaranteed to see at least three or four bats flying around every time I go. The way their silvery forms bank turns, suddenly change directions, flap frantically to gain altitude again ... all of it gives a strong impression of chaos, and yet, in watching longer, I can't help but notice the grace of it every time. 

I could try to make this into an analogy of something here - either of something Japanese or my own experiences here - but, in truth, I just like watching bats fly in the evening.