Thursday, 13 December 2007

PostHeaderIcon 私の車.... DEAD!

Evening all

I hurt my leg at football tonight. I hobbled home like a pirate early so I now have a whole extra 15 minutes in my schedule to update. I really thought I'd broken my leg at first but now it doesn't really hurt and I feel like a wimp.

I was making dinner after work earlier on this evening and I nearly had a far worse injury. I was cleaning up a board and sharp knife from last night's preparations. As I lifted up the board the knife started to slide off in my direction. The next few seconds slowed down as I contemplated the horror of what was about to happen. I was either going to castrate myself, stab myself in a major artery and bleed to death on my kitchen floor or slice off some toes. As the knife hurtled towards my groin I pleaded with the Gods to take all my toes... even a small nick in the artery would suffice. Luckily gravity took hold of the knife and it lost some of its horizontal velocity. However, there was still the matter of my right foot which was looking like a lamb ready to be slaughtered by a pack of angry wolves. There wasn't enough time for my foot to react and I watched the knife continue its trajectory towards the ground. It missed of course... otherwise I wouldn't have went to football and whinged about my little bang. I rate my dinner 6.5/10.

I have no idea what I've still to update on. The two weekends were the anchors of my memories... stuck at the bottom of a deep sea... that is my brain. Everything else is just a helium balloon tied to it, connected but still out of reach.

The week after Hiroshima then. Nothing much out of the ordinary that I can remember. I usually have quirky little stories each day but I forget them by the time it comes to write this. I did meet an old Tano ALT (Assistant Language Teacher = ME) during that week called Joanna. Apparently she had found my blog before she visited the prefecture again and had been reading it. I promised to write up an account of our meeting I believe. I think she left about 4-5 years ago. My predecessor was here for two years, before him was an Aussie called Ged (I use the stapler with his name on it) for a year and then Joanna. She seemed pretty genki (overused Japanese word for energetic/healthy) and so was my predecessor when I met him briefly... I'm not very genki boo. It was quite a strange and brief exchange in the elementary playground and she seemed let down by my lack of Glaswegian accent. It is now difficult to slip back into my natural style of talk because I can't bloody remember what it is. I now. need. to. pronounce. everything. like. this in the vague hope that I'm not called a barbarian by my students. I've been told she was Scottish too which makes me feel less special as NOBODY is Scottish over here. Although I think my town is the only one to openly accept non-English British people for some reason. Ach aye, it's hard to think of everyone in the last 10-15 years who has passed through my apartment. All going through the exact same experience thinking it is quite unique but only separated by a few years.

Yes yes yes, it all comes back to me now. I spent the majority of the following weekend decorating my apartment. It took me forever to drive about trying to find what I wanted but it now looks excellent. I spent a small fortune buying an Xbox 360, games and a small HDTV (called an HDMI here, 'Mi' means see/view). I've been poor for so many years (I had a brief affluent period of a few months once when I stayed at home in my first year of University) that I'm loving spending money. However, whilst I did buy all that new stuff I decorated the rest of my place on the cheap. I'm most proud of a little corner in my 'living room' which cost me about 40p in total. I had a free light that was too bright, free speakers from Mark and a 40pm sheet of bamboo type stuff. Problems = the light was too bright, the main music system looked ugly and the bamboo sheet wouldn't on my wall. So I covered the music system with bamboo sheet, stuck the light on top of the system and therefore created a nice light affected. I should take a picture of it but my camera is all the way in the other room. I got lots of free stuff out the electronics shop because I had a points card from my tv/wireless router. I got another kotatsu for my main centre of the house, some cushions and a carpet. I bought some cheap sheeting to cover the horrible neon lights, a new table for my kitchen and some nice couches for my living room. Half of the stuff was already reasonable and I found the places that has all the sales on. It looks bloody great and where I'm sitting now is my favourite seat in the world. I will upload pictures next time. I enjoyed tearing bits of wood off things with my BARE HANDS to create air vents and places for cables to go the most. Also, I bought lots of little bits and pieces out the 100 yen store to put on the walls and stuff. The kotatsu is my new favourite thing in the whole world. Houses in Japan don't have insulation or central heating so it can get quite cold at night. A kotatsu is just a normal table but it has a heater underneath it. So you lift off the table top, stick a massive blanket/duvet under it and then wrap yourself up in the warmth. It's amazing until you need to separate yourself from the cocoon to go to the toilet or work.

Yes, so my place is now nice and homely. I put up my Christmas tree last night which is the closest to the 12 days before Christmas I've ever been. I would call it a 'wee diddy tree' but I managed to make it look quite nice. For some reason, nobody in Japan wants tree lights that stay on so they only flash on every few seconds. I got creative again and covered an ugly drawer with a spare red futon cover that I bought with my new bed sheet. Stuck on the tree and put all my lovely presents from home underneath it. I even had Christmas music playing in the background too. I've been teaching Christmas lessons all week but I'm still not really in the holiday spirit as it just isn't the same (it's still about 12-15oc during the day). I was looking at the cost of a flight home last week but it would just be too much money/hassle at this stage. I'd still need to get myself to Osaka/Tokyo and then from London to Glasgow whilst taking an indirect flight to Moscow or something.

December has went so fast so far as well and I'm hammering my way through my lovely Cadbury's advent calendar. I don't have any good plans for the holidays yet. Everyone else has got all their own stuff going on but I'll probably head to Kyoto to meet my Japanese flatmate from Glasgow last year. We were never best friends but it will still be nice to see him if we do meet up. I'll probably be hosting a Christmas party at my apartment on the 22nd before everyone heads off so that should be fun.

Returning back to the weekend when I decorated. I must make another special mention as I promised Noah and Andrew I would. They went to an 'international basketball tournament' in the city which had mixed foreigners and Japanese teams playing. They came around on Sunday night and told me one of the greatest sporting achievements I've ever heard. Before the game they had mentioned doing this special move that used to be in an old basketball computer game. Whilst playing in a proper match, Noah managed to pick up the ball and both of them saw the opportunity present itself. With free space to move... Andrew went down on his hands and knees near the hoop whilst Noah ran up and jumped off Andrew's back towards the net and got the basket. I found this to be excellent news and if I was in the crowd then I probably would have cheered on from the sidelines.

I'm on the home stretch of this update, I can almost taste the light at the end of the rainbow tunnel. I want to talk a little more about the teaching aspect of my life but I don't have the energy to go into too much. Basically, I'm getting a lot better at my job and my classes have been going really well recently. My 5th grade class today went on for about another 20-25 minutes today as everyone was really getting into it. When everyone was leaving one of the girls went "Hanta hanta... supa fun" and then waved. Aww it made me so happy. I had an excellent experience at junior high school last week too. I turned up on Tuesday morning and was given an hour's notice to run an entire class by myself. The student English teacher was off ill and the English teacher's daughter had to go to hospital. So it was super ALT to the rescue. It probably doesn't seem like that big a deal because I get full control over my elementary classes but junior school is completely different. In theory, it's actually illegal for me to be unsupervised in a classroom and the lessons are mostly taught in Japanese before I pop up to speak some English. It was also the 3rd years who all the teachers always go on about how misbehaved they are. They like me though and I think months of talking with them at lunch meant that they gave me a fair chance to do my stuff even though they had the opportunity to go insane for 50 minutes. Everything went really well and I loved the new found freedom and authority over a class. I even managed to address the issue of katakana English which is always a pain. Basically, rather than teaching them the pronounciation of the alphabet they always give the katakana (Japanese for foreign words) letters for it. So the kids are basically reading English in the same pronounciation as the Japanese alphabet. If you've ever talked to an average Japanese person then you'll have noticed they'll add 'o' and 'u' onto the end of most words and substitute 'l' for 'r'. A few times I've played this game where I give hints in English and they need to guess what I am. I always start off with an easy one like "I am a food". For weeks this has been met my blank stares and one kid in the front row looking at me like I've just insulted his mother. I repeat it... not caving into the katakana until the teacher hesitates and then says "food....o". " AHHH YES NOW I SEE... FOODO. Stupid Hanta doesn't know English." The most bizarre situation that has happened was a few weeks ago when they were reading word cards.

" Bus... u "
" Outside...o "
" Toront... ... .... " (ie. Toronto in Canada)

Yes. They left out the 'o' for the only word that ended with it. I was actually shocked. Despite these small annoyances my classes are usually good and the teacher is great. I'm better of course. Super ALT, that's me.

I have one more story left in me. I set off in my car to junior high on Monday morning as someone stole my bike and I was running late as well as on the second day of my hangover.

I had been out at to a Film Festival last weekend and then did some serious drinking in the city that night. Some people in Kochi made some 3 and a half minute films about the prefecture and it was held in a traditional Japanese theatre. I dressed up smart including a tie and my fancy jacket. I was told to dress up but everyone else dressed like the dirty peons they are. Some of the videos were alright but I had more fun talking to everyone there instead. They had these really bad hosts and it seemed they hadn't practised playing the videos as nearly everyone started in the middle, started with no sound or they couldn't find the start button. Ah well, it's for a good a cause as the money raised sends Japanese kids off on an English exchange thing. I wanted to make a video but I couldn't get the right cables on time. I did strap a video camera to my bike basket at 7am one morning and bolted through the tight streets of Tano. I then came out at the sea wall and captured the lovely view. Boo... I wish I got it working.

Anyway, I digress. We missed our train into the city after the festival. So Noah, Joey, Erin (girl from Nankoku) and I set off trying to find a taxi. In the end Noah found this random and cool Japanese guy who drove us all into the city for free. It was quite a strange situation but I enjoyed it and it started the night off well. Everyone was out in the city and we had already drunk about 7 beers before the night started proper. I can't remember much about it but it was good fun. It's no good to boast about posioning yourself but I'm impressed by how much I drank that evening. I woke up the next morning (still in my coat) still a bit drunk and wondering where I ended up. Luckily I had crashed with Mark at Courtney and Dillon's (Americans) place in the city. I know I always mention random names but there you go. Yes, so I was still drunk but exceptionally hungover at the same time. Rosa (girl from England) was making some lovely greasy food but I couldn't bring my stupid body to eat it. I eventually took a number of train rides home. There was so much noise going on around me at all times, the sped up Christmas jingles in the shops nearly made me pass out. I then let everyone on the train before me to be all polite like... only to find I was the only one left standing and stuck under the speaker. Then I got home and realised I'd left my house key in Joey's car. I ended up walking about town for a bit (still dressed up) until I met some elementary kids and had a nice talk with them. I remember one of them handing me their kitten and not knowing what to do with it. I looked down and this little head stared up at me with terrified eyes and its claws digging into my jacket. One of the girls went "cute cat" which I had taught her last week! I was so proud.

Returning to my car.
I was still suffering from the weekend. As I was driving to school I noticed my car vibrating and making bad noises. I had to stop at the red light FOR AGES and I knew full well that it was going to die on me right there. I can't explain how goddamn long that light stayed on red and then the moment THE MOMENT it changed my car went DUUUR DUUUUR DUUURNNKKKK dead. The initial few seconds I just sat there staring vacantly knowing that the next few minutes of my life were going to be awful. I tried to start it up straight away with the orchestra of horns growing behind me. It was dead. I stuck on the hazards and tried to wave to the drivers to overtable but no... no they wanted to beep. I left it for a few minutes because I thought it might spring to life after a break. It didn't of course.


I then had to walk back to the office whilst trying to explain with my hands that my car wasn't working. Honestly, who would stop at traffic lights and then leave their car with any other reason? Yes, so I had to go get the help of my office comrades and we pushed that bad boy all the way home. Of course, the car started the moment I'd got them all out the nice warm office to push my tinfoil car about town. When I got to junior high later on I tried to explain my predicament to the office. After five months of Japanese study the best I could come up with was "watashi no kuruma (My car).... DEAD!"

Hurrah. I am now up to date.
Tomorrow I have an end of year enkai for the junior high school. This will consist of the men trying to drink more than me whilst the women will ask me if I know their names/ages, can I cook, can I use chopsticks and do I like Japanese girls? After that I am going to catch the train up to Nankoku to go to the girl's 80's themed party.

I'm going to bed.


Anonymous said...

good blog shep, you sound like you're having such a good time over there, not sure I'd have what it takes to be a teacher, especially to children who speak a totally different language to you, so kudos to you etc!

Mike said...


I enjoyed this update. Especially "Toront".

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.