Date: 27th July- 12th August
Location: Takeo, Saga prefecture, Japan.
So I was sitting there in my new home alone, with no air conditioning, sweating more than a blind man in a prison shower and I'm wondering what the f*** have I done!! Why would I choose to come to live in a hick town in Japan I mean I managed to escape Levin didn't I!! What was I honestly thinking... maybe back in Nov when I thought of coming I was just having another of my overexcited days that dragged on for way too long! I decided the best thing for me was not to lie around feeling sorry for myself but I was actually best to go and have a little look around outside and familiarise myself with my new surrounds. (Of course the real reason for me dragging my sorry self outside was actually to find a phone so I could call Karen for some much needed encouragement and to hear her wonderful familiar voice, but saying I wanted to explore sounds much more like a hardened traveller!) My mode of transport was selected in one swift moment having cast my gaze outside to my car park spot... no there was no car parked in it.. just my brand new second .. or maybe third or fourth...hand red granny bike!! I affectionately have named her red brick more for the fact it weighs a tonne than because its red. However, I don't care how much she weighs cause the basket on the front is just too cool. After speaking with Karen, and of course a much needed addiction hit in the form of a cold drink from a nearby vending machine, I felt my spirits lift and I headed off to explore a bit. A couple of things became obvious immediately. First, I am certainly in the minority group here. I'm not sure this town ever sees any foreigners that aren't associated with teaching English! Second, Japan is a very polite society. You just ride along and everyone you see pretty much bows to you... of course I return the bow. After all as they say," when in Saga do as the Sagans do".... Or something like that.
That night Sarah who is our district rep took us to dinner at a very Japanese place. She also gave us maps of Takeo (there are about three or four buildings worth marking... THAT'S IT!! Oh dear...
The following day I went to school for my first day. All the teachers were very friendly, and I was very relieved to find the English teachers all speak pretty good English. While this may sound crazy to you back home its not uncommon for English teachers, especially in junior high school, to be really bad at English and to not speak to the ALTs in English at all!
Was a little shocked when on of the teachers asked me if I wanted to go and introduce myself to one of her classes.... We had been told this wouldn't happen until about September or so. But then the JET people always did tell us that "every situation is different" touché I thought...touché! Actually wasn't very hard and I didn't find my self getting embarrassed like I thought I would. The kids were so so shy. Must be intimidating being in my presence tho... poor guys...
For the afternoon I ended up going to lunch at Sarah's with the other ALTs in the Takeo then some of us headed out to the local velodrome where we had been invited to hang out in a corporate box and bet on the cyclists (Japanese version of the races). Must say I was well impressed with the treatment we received. Watching from our air-conditioned box, drinks being brought to us and everything, all because either, as a group, we are gaijin (foreigners).... or because they have done their research and obviously know who the f*** I am.. im not sure. Either way it was well good of them. After the final race we were even aloud to head down to the track and they got out some granny bikes for us to have a ride around. Don't think I need to say who won our little race.. Then to top off the royal treatment we were even presented with gift bags when we left! Think I could get used to this kind of respect.. yes that's what it is. RESPECT!
On Saturday I went along to my first tennis experience in Japan. A different Sarah and her husband Nick play in these classes on Sats and Weds so I said I was dead keen. Everything was gravy; even Sarah was able to translate their coaching to me and everything. Played pretty well.. top night was potentially ahead as we were all going to a bar called Ragaja (Japanese reggae bar!) for an old ALT, Amits, going away drinks that night. So we finished tenni, and I headed home for a much needed shower. Twenty minutes later I was pushing a coat hanger thru my front door mailbox trying to turn the deadbolt lock, cursing more than an Eddie Murphy stand-up, and feeling a mounting sense of dread rise within me as it became clearer I was screwed! If one positive can be taken from that night tho its how secure I know my house is!!! For the next day and a half I was reduced to my shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt! I even had to borrow jandals to walk around in cause the ground is too hot. No wallet, nothing! Didn't even have my calling card details memorized yet...
Monday about 11.30 I finally got into my place when Sarah tracked down a spare key! God bless her. I packed clothes and things, had a much much needed shower, as I didn't even get to have one after tenni!
Monday, tue, and wed were spent at English camp just outside a city called Karatsu Was my first real experience with hanging with the Japanese kids. Luckily they were a group who were very enthusiastic about learning English. Was lots of fun playing lots of games and things. My personal highlight was when they played Chinese whispers. I was put into one group to make up numbers. Game consisted of six teams and one person from each team would be told a sentence, then they got to tell the next person in their group only twice and then the next person passed it on etc etc. So I was third from the front and there were only three people behind me. The message when it got to me was "the fox jumps over the coat" I queried this with the kid telling me as it was obvious they had already got it wrong. But then in fairness I decided to play honestly (yes I'm not a fan of cheating in games!!) so I passed on the exact same message to the next person. By the time it got written on the board just one person change later it was written as "Dlopphin, Flox, Kangraroo" wtf!!! So funny but at the same time very much an eye opener to see what level the kids are at with their English.
Must pass quick comment on the food at camp. Interesting. Although it wasn't totally gross by my own tastebuds it left a lot to be desired. Lets just say I wasn't going back for any seconds... except the night we had Japanese bbq! Very yum. Personal favourite is Okoge (fried rice that gets stuck to the bbq and you scrape it off. Nice and chewy)
Think at this point in Japan I have probably already tried more seafood than ever before in my life and had only been a bit over a week here! Still not liking it tho.
Thursday evening I went to tans, an ALT in a nearby town, for a bbq with the locals only to be eaten alive my mushi (mosquitoes)!! Then Friday I went out drinking in Takeo. Met some funny Japanese people through Sarah who thankfully spoke good English and gave me some crucial lessons in Japanese and the Japanese words for certain body parts!!. For those interested in know what they are just drop me an email!! Highly amusing I must say.
Saturday gave the potential for a repeat of last sat when I found myself contemplating breaking my door down. However, common sense prevailed and I found myself able to leave my apartment having showered after tennis fully clothed, with wallet and keitai on me and keys in hand! Im a genius me thinks. Went to meet up with the other guys. Thought they were at a beatles bar called Let it be... but pronounced around here as "Ret it be"... but it turns out when I walked in as the only round eye in there I was mistaken... there were non of "my kind" in there so I made a quick escape.
They were actually just up the road drinking in a female clothing store! Of course that's where they would be.. how stupid of me...don't know why I didn't consider a clothing store for drinking on a Saturday... what a foreign fool I must be!..
Was very crazy inside as everyone was well on their way when I arrived having been poured drink after drink by the ladies and guys in there. Just after I arrived and started drinking the Takeo Mayor arrived, drunk, and in fine form! He is a well cool geezer. Very friendly and interested in what we had to say... tho I have a very strong suspicion maybe it had something to do with the alcomohol being pumped around his body. Whatever the reason God bless him.
Follow up to the shop drinking was visiting our local Takeo Mexican bar for a crazy finish to the night being entertained by the Mexican bar lady Cecilia. She is well dodgy but cracks us up. Also happens to have the bestest best dip and salsa on crackers I have ever tasted. Won't tell us whats in them tho. Honestly worth going there for a dinner of crackers they are so good. My drink that night was Asahi and orange fanta. Surprisingly yum.
Sunday I headed to the Imari Matsuri (festival) with Tan. Met other ALTs there and got to see many different dance styles by literally young (3 or 4 years old some of them) and old (granny power!) and everything in between. Our Japanese friend Rumi was dancing in a more authentic Japanese style that was really cool to see. While Tan and I were standing on the street watching one lot of dances we happened to be standing next to this crazy older dude decked out in a blue cape style outfit who
was going well hard yelling random stuff into the mic on top of the pop style dancy music... "huh... hoo...huh...hoo....waa...hoo...huu..." etc then from nowhere he stopped yelling into the mic and thrust it instead to my mouth! Oh sh*t... possibly the worst thing was the fact that I didn't even consider what I was doing I just jumped in and started doing the same thing at top voice... "huh... haa....whoo..." no idea if what he was saying actually meant something. Mine sure didn't!.. he seemed happy tho cause not long later he did the same thing again and I again sang some old school batman style fighting sounds into the mic. Still not sure why he didn't pick on Tan. Luck guy!
However, tans luck seemed to run dry when later we were hanging out with a bunch of kids before they were to do a dance. They started off first off giving us high fives and stuff then from nowhere the boys started doing the dreaded "Kancho!!" It involved them running up behind us guys trying to stick their fingers where they clearly don't belong!! I don't know if I was more shocked at this sudden out burst of clear male/male violation the kids were showing or by the parents and adults complete lack of trying to stop them! To the adults it was normal and even funny!! Jesus. Anyway so yeah I made it thru that ordeal with my dignity intact while Jamie and Tan both lost their 'kancho cherries' that warm summers night in Imari....
The fire works that night went on for about 45 mins and while they weren't the biggest I've ever seen they were still very cool. The whole atmosphere walking around that night was very pleasant. No slight mention of aggro from anyone or any people trying to be "hard" like you might find back home with the Gs.
This week I have been spending full days at school. I have stopped wearing ties already as its just crazy wearing them in this kind of heat. Ive spent some time hanging in the school gym hanging with the kids who are all very genki (excited) about English and talking to foreigners. So funny, no matter who you talk to they all have the same standard questions. "name, age, where are you from, do you have a girl friend?" then when I answer yes, Karen from New Zealand, they follow up with "woo woo you rubo rubo?" yes I rubo rubo! (love) haha so funny.
Yesterday I stumbled upon potentially the coolest thing since arriving in Japan. Kendo! Damn that sh*t is cool! I was bored in the teachers room so decided to see what was cooking in the gym and upon drawing near it I could hear chanting and stamping feet and banging that reminded me of troy or something. Entered to see junior high school kids dressed to the days in their gears racing back and forth practicing striking each other on the head and torso!! Was so impressive I can wait to have a go although Ive been warned they have practiced for about six years already so will be the bomb and im best to practice with primary school kids!! Come on! I think ive seen my fair share of starwars and lord of the rings movies to know how to fight with a sword. Plus I didn't go to the gym for a couple of months at the start of the year for nothing! The kids will be well intimidated when they see me gear up im sure!
As I type this I'm currently enjoying a long weekend. Because of the English camp I went on I was entitled to two days paid off to be used within a month of the camp. Even tho the days of the camp were normal school days! Its called Daikyu. So I decided this fri (today) and Monday were good days to have off. Cant believe I have managed to find a job in Japan that allows me to do less work and spend more time on the web and kicking it than my last job!! Brilliant... turns out I really could get to enjoy this lifestyle after all!!