Episode seventeen: red card delights
Mar 17, 2006
|Date: February 14th - March 17th
Location: Takeo, Japan
End of episode 16: "Hopefully by the next entry I write I will be able to inform you all of my great progress I have made in 'growing as a person'... and adding to my "skills" collection."
Well let me start by saying that if making playlist's of Top 10 songs by different artists is in fact a "skill" then I'm now a master. I've spent many a spare hour at school with pen in one hand, ipod in the other, scrolling through all the songs of a chosen artist and compiling my top 10. Some people may find this very sad, and a complete waste of time... I don't I like it... I find it highly addictive and a great time waster. In my collection of top 10s I now have U2, Oasis, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Supergrass, and many more that I wont bore you with. The reason I think it is in fact a "skill" is because over time I have actually fine-tuned my selection behaviour such that I can now sort a top 10 in record time.
Another way I have found to fill my down time at school is by doing Japanese paperwork. If you are ever at a stage of wanting to pull your hair out because of a form your required to fill in, or the process you have to go through to get something down in your home country is driving you nuts then please stop and spare a thought for the Japanese, or more specifically for us foreigners who cant read Japanese but have to try and get things done here. I am currently in the process of buying my first ever car. Exciting you think?... well it was but to be honest now I'm just wondering what I have got myself into. There are six different forms needed just to register my parking space, including two diagrams. Then I have another five forms to take with me to the office where I can transfer the ownership, while there I'm to pick up another three forms to fill in. After I finally have my space registered and ownership complete I have to try and organize insurance then attempt to get my NZ drivers licence translated to a Japanese one. All I can be grateful for with the whole process is that I don't have to do what the Americans have to do. They have to do an actual driving test, written and practical. A fellow ALT, who has been through the whole process and now has his Japanese licence, told us at a conference that getting his Japanese licence was hands down the worst experience of his life. That huge statement was then co-signed by another few ALTs who have also been through it all. Tan actually ended up getting his car from free because the girl who had it was sick of trying to pass the ridiculously hard test and so after six attempts gave up. No one has ever passed on his or her first try. Why make the test so ridiculously hard you ask? I don't know, it's just the Japanese way I think.
Now on a lighter note, I have now been in Japan for seven and a half months. Time has flown by and things have, as one would expect, stopped being so novel and now just seem normal. I now find it strange when I'm on a train platform and there isn't a drink machine next to me. I stare at foreigners I don't know like they have three heads. Eating salad with a fork is now harder than with chopsticks... ok you get the idea. However, even though my Japanese ness is currently at an all time high, and scaling at a faster rate than Bush's approval is dropping, Japan doesn't cease to throw the odd curve ball out and make me stand back and think "that's right... I'm in Japan!!". A recent example of this occurred the other weekend when, on a Friday night, we were just doing what we have done so many times... heading to Tsutaya to get a movie for the night. I jumped out of Rumi's car, walked to the entrance where a couple of sales people were positioned outside to try and sign people up to the WOWOW cable channel (something I already have). As I neared the lady I was met with an expression of absolute shock. I'm talking amazement on the same level as someone in NZ turning around in a supermarket to find John Lennon standing there (yes I know he is dead... kinda adds to the "amazement factor"). The shocked lady then, rudely one may think, points right at me and says to me "kakkoii!!" which in English means "cool!!" (haha..ok so now you realize why I wanted to tell you this story...it's true though so bare with me). I was kind of stunned by this outburst. I wasn't sure what I should be more shocked about, the fact she was seemingly so stunned to see a foreigner, or the fact she really thought I was the coolest guy ever (to perhaps let you better understand my shock at this I should let you know I was wearing a bright pink t-shirt underneath my navy blue, woollen, v-neck jumper that I wear to school in the winter. Its rather grandpa-esq and the combo surely isn't that cool...if it wasn't for the outfit I would of course completely understood her outburst...completely). Obviously not being fluent in Japanese I just laughed out loud and shook my head saying "iie...iie.." "no, no" while I ran in to return the movies. Once at the counter there was a problem with them so I popped out to get Rumi to come in and translate. This ended up leading to another three encounters with crazy lady, this time with Rumi next to me for each. She did the same thing each time, never relinquishing from her look of amazement. Just to give her a real kick, after we had been bowling, I went back to the DVD store with about 5 other foreigners in tow. I think her head must have exploded while trying to come to grips with the remarkableness of having six foreign people standing in front of her at once. I have never seen her outside Tsutaya again.
From the past month things have seemed relatively quite here. Winter has been winding down and while its not springtime yet we have managed to spend a few days in shorts and t-shirts. The heating is very seldom used and soon the second blanket will be removed from the bed. Not quite yet though... not quite yet. I was greeted the other morning, march 14th, with a light sprinkling of snow on my way to school. There is a Japanese idiom, though I don't know it in Japanese, but the English translation is pretty much "three days of cold, four days of warmth". Seems to sum up this months weather perfectly.
Now looking back over the past month one weekend that instantly stands out was the weekend following Valentines Day. The Friday was the usual carnage that goes along with a birthday party. This time it was to celebrate the birthday of the tequila princess, Badsha. It was a night of cake, tequila shots, music and fun. I tried learning, for a whole five minutes till frustration kicked in, the samba. The next night we had a visitor in our midsts. Big Nick (such a clever name cause he is 6"4....God we're smart and creative) from Saga city came to visit us. Wow you should have seen the excitement on everyone's faces at having someone from outside the usual crowd amongst us!! We spent the better part of the night in Maurice's hood, Kitagata, at his favourite Jamaican bar. The place was pretty much empty so in no time we were dominating things. We pulled two long tables and benches together and before you could say Kanpai we were playing drinking games. Nick taught us all a killer game involving nothing but a coin called 'Up Jankens'. We also played some 'Zoo' and some 'slaps'. The owner, Manabu, and his patron friends, were loving it and soon joining in with us. The night ended when six people crashed out all over the floor in our apartment ready for an early start the next day...
... oh the next day... what was in store for us? Why just a day of SNOWBOARDING!! Two car loads of us headed to our only "mountain" for skiing/boarding in Saga prefecture. The snow is all man made but for everyone that didn't matter as almost all people were at a beginner level. Just as well as the "mountain" didn't hold too much in the way of challenging runs. Still as far as having fun with a bunch of newbies goes it was tops. Karen was skiing and did very well, before long was whizzing down the hill faster than a cat on speed. The day was a great success with only Lisa not really "becoming one with the mountain". Lisa spectacularly finished the day by somehow finding herself skiing down the backwards and to counter this, fell forward onto her knees but both of her feet came out of, not only the skis, but the ski boats themselves leaving her skis to continue on their downward journey, boots atop, before a nice guy stepped in and stopped them before a child down the hill was decapitated and returned them to a crying Lisa!
The following Wednesday in an attempt to break the week up a bit I threw in my Red Card. For those not in the know of a red card I will give a quick run down. 8 Cards have been given out to our group of friends. They have an expiry date of 1st April. Basically if you ever feel like doing something, drinking, going somewhere, having a party, whatever, then you can simply use your red card and force everyone else to join you. No ifs, or umms, or buts. On this particular day with nothing for the evening planned I quickly made some calls to tell everyone I was using my card and to be at our apartment by 8pm. To my shock horror everyone was there with out any complaints. The theme for my night was poker, piss and p___. Was a funny as night and concluded with a game of circle of death to which I got my royally screwed. Of my four cards I got to draw I pulled a 2 (drink 2 myself) and three kings. The last of which happened to be the fourth of the game and meant I had to skull the full red wine and bourbon and coke concoction in the middle...mmmm...not.
While the night was certainly a lot of fun, rocking into work in the morning and being told, jokingly I hope, that you smell a bit of alcohol is probably not the best impression to leave on your supervisor!!. Oops.
Another highlight from the month was going to Karen's Koto performance. She had been roped into performing on the Koto (a huge Japanese string instrument that's is played kind of like a guitar on its back). She was performing, along with her Japanese friend Emiko, at a local Korea-Japan relation's night. There were many delegates there from Takeo and the Korean embassy. It was pretty hard out but she performed admirably, especially considering she had all of three rehearsals. The best part of the evening was that she got to wear one of Emiko's Kimonos. She looked amazing, and sitting there playing the Koto, the most Japanese she will probably ever look in her life.
The following Thursday my main school, Takeo-seiryo, had the graduation ceremony for the oldest year. The ceremony itself was the most depressing graduation I can think of. Quite hard to comprehend really when one realizes that these are students who have been studying hard for pretty much the past ten years, have been spending unthinkable amounts of time at school studying, weekends included, and when they are now being told... "well done all of you, you are now free to do as you wish..." they decide to break down in tears and spend the day mopping! Although the ceremony was typically Japanese with far too many speeches and no real entertainment value it did finish well. After all the formal proceedings had finished from no where the 1st and 2nd year students suddenly rushed from their seats and spread themselves all around the outside walls of the gymnasium. They were quickly joined by the parents and teachers forming an arc on the inside, thus, leaving a middle pathway for the graduating 3rd years to walk, class by class, down shaking hands and hugging their friends and family as they went. It was a really touching moment and even though I had only taught one of the classes for little over six months it still sent shivers down me to see them go.
The night of the graduation presented my second opportunity to go to an Enkai (work drinking party). It was held at a very fancy hotel near our famous Takeo Onsen. The massive room where the enkai was held was decked out in a super Japanese style and the food, as such, complied with the theme and offered an interesting challenge. How to eat enough so as not to be rude, but still avoid eating most of it?... The night was a fun affair and culminated with a rather funny rendition of YMCA sung by myself, Lisa and Kuriyama-sensei (out supervisor). I know I know, I still haven't learnt from the Hey Jude incident. It's just so hard to say no to karaoke offers here in Japan...even if it does mean singing in front of all your teachers, board of trustees and principal.
On Sunday the 5th Karen and I celebrated 11 months together with a nice picnic in the lounge. The weather outside was so cold so we made do as best we could and spread the blanket on the floor, set down some food, and settled in for the romantic blockbuster... kill bill 2!! Actually ended up "picnicking" it out until about 22:30 when the 4-hour marathon session of American idol finally finished... so hooked, please someone help me!
After a tacky night of American idol watching I followed up the next day with a number of hours glued to the Academy Awards with drink in hand. Was great to also finally get some use out of the WOWOW channel I sprung for to watch the Aussie Open and haven't turned on since...
Just to be a total pain, Lisa pulled a Red Card on everyone mid week and actually proposed every have an all nighter. While no one did, most people were pretty wasted the next day, none more so than Lisa I might add... Karma me thinks... as we didn't get to be till after 05:30. The night was a blur of a movie theme tune trivia quiz (which Karen, badsha and I won I might add... a player down too), some card games and many hours spent playing Mafia...possibly one of the greatest games ever invented!
After a quite week, and what was proving to be a very quite weekend, while lying in bed enjoying some qt with Karen I received a phone call from The Tan at 12am... it went something like this....
Tan: "you awake?"
Me: "yeah, just lying in bed. Why's that?"
Tan: "I'm pulling my red card, get up, we're gonna play some Mafia..."
Me: "you for real?... is everyone else in?"
Tan: yeah man, I'll give them a call now and ring you back"
Twenty minutes later Karen and I stumbled next door to Badsha's place to begin, what would turn out to be, a 4-hour session of Mafia. At the end of the night I can only confirm that I suck at the game and never seem to be able to pick the mafia people. Turns out Karen on the other hand can not only read people very well and always pick who's who, but, can lie her socks off too... hmmm a very scary combination!!
To thwart a rather quite weekend on Sunday at about 18:00 I put on my U2 DVD, cranked up the vol, grabbed a deck of cards and some cans of chu-hi and Karen and I began playing some drinking games. An hour later and we were well on our way... good times though. Makes me realize how much I miss the times of just chilling back in New Zealand, listening to some quality music with a group of friends and having some drinks. Still, Karen proved to be a great drinking buddy... I think this may become a regular Sunday thing?!... is that wrong? In fact, if it keeps going that well why not move it to a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday too... right?...
Today was my last day at Shiroishi High School. Starting from April I have a new school to visit in its place. I have really enjoyed teaching there, and even more enjoyed many free periods spent joining in the PE classes and playing soccer, tennis and basketball. The students are great fun and, as such, in conclusion I would like to finish with a story written today, as a collective effort, by one of my first year classes. It was written through the process of the simple game involving someone to write one sentence and pass to the next person, the second person then writes a new sentence and then covers the first sentence and passes on to the third student...repeat x infinity. The end result from a bunch of half English speaking 15 year olds is always rewarding. Enjoy.
It was the last day of school.
I went to school.
I met Mr. Nakamura.
I love Mr. Nakamura.
I want love making with me.
I am very treat it
Because he have read a erotic book for two hours.
After that, he is empty
He was cry.
But, He was happy
I was playing the piano
It's very busy.
But, go to play tennis.
I enjoyed playing tennis.
One day morning
I became 'S'
I love S *insert picture of love heart*