Yes, it is indeed fermented soybeans and it does indeed have an acquired taste. I have been meaning to try it since I came to Japan as it is quite a big deal but I always hoped the meeting would be on my terms. Yet I found myself sitting at a table with numerous nine year olds watching my every move. In the end I didn’t mind the taste; it reminded me of bad coffee flavoured chocolate. The most annoying part was the constant sticky strings that followed every mouthful, some got up my nose. The rest of the lunch consisted of a bowl of seaweed stuff and some small fish. My poor stomach was not satisfied.
I believe I gave a little bit of a teaser about my antics this past weekend and now I shall write up the events in full. Last Friday was my half day so Noah and I went into
My lovely car
I got a full tank for about £12 which pleased me greatly and there was even an attendant who filled it up and washed my windows. I was driving home when I decided to continue down Route 55 to see what I could find. Route 55 is the only road in eastern
Noah loves keg
We can fill it with 2/3 litres of Asahi Lager and it plugs in to keep everything cold! We tried it out that night and it was great.
On the Sunday morning Noah, Andrew, Matt and I set off along Route 55 towards
I think eastern Kochi looks like India
We met up with Joey who is a new ALT from
Incidentally, Muroto is probably one of the worst possible places to live in
No tsunami in sight... for now
We also visited temple 24 (out of 88 on Shikoku remember) which is around 1000 years old and a lighthouse that has the biggest lens in
The next morning the weather wasn’t as nice but we took a drive along the far eastern coast of
I was just about to conclude my Muroto adventure when I remembered one of the most exciting parts. On the way home we took a shortcut through the mountains which winds along the rugged terrain and reaches so high that you are level with the clouds. We stopped at an intriguing spot and found some (basic) stairs that soon vanished into the darkness of the trees. Being in an adventurous mood we set out to conquer None (pronounced no-nay) mountain still damp from the beach and hungover from the previous night. It was a tough and uncomfortable trek but once we had started there was no turning back. Along the way there were some very patchy paths and the leader always carried the important ‘spider stick’ to protect us from their evil.
Every tree looked the same apart from this red chap
It reminded me of ‘Indiana Jones and the
The Muroto adventurers of September 2007
The next few days
P.S. All of my September photographs are now here.
A very short update since it is 11pm and I am doing some last minute preparation for my classes tomorrow. I’m not organised because I was last in work on Friday morning and since then I’ve been out and about doing fun stuff.
I shall do a proper update when I get some time but here are the highlights:
We bought a keg
We climbed a mountain
We went to the beach
We climbed some rocks
We drank lots of beer and ate lots of chicken
Here’s one picture to wet your appetite
Today I have used it much more than normal as it is one of those days where I am constantly warm and it's making me feel lethargic. For some unknown reason the air conditioning in the office has been greatly reduced despite it being warmer than last week. Maybe I am imagining it but I had an email from a friend in Kyushu who told me there is a schedule for when his office used it. So for him (and possibly me) it's bye bye comfortable office in the 3rd week of September. It's probably not the case here but I wouldn't put it past Japanese bureaucracy.
I had lunch with the 6th graders at elementary for the first time earlier today. This was the class where I crashed and burned during my introduction when the teacher left me alone. I was meant to have lunch with them last Thursday but the teacher was late finishing her calligraphy lesson and my lunch got cold. So I ended up just going next door to the 5th graders because I prefer them and the teacher doesn't annoy me. Some of the 6th grade are at that age where it's no longer cool to be energetic and carefree whilst the others are the opposite. It makes it harder for me to judge how to interact with them. With the other elementary classes all the children want to talk to you, I can joke around with them, play all kinds of sport and show them my vast collection of stupid faces at lunch. Whilst at Junior High I take on a more serious teacher role whilst treating them more like young adults and talking to them about music and the like. I didn't really go into lunch today with much enthusiasm so it was probably my fault everyone just stared and whispered to their partners about me. I managed to strike up some conversation which may have salvaged our relationship this year and at break I joined in on their rely team which made them loosen up a bit. This brings me back to being warm, I had a cold shower after that but by the time I got back to work I was all sweaty again BAH. Although my dad tells me he had to scrape ice off his car window back in Scotland this week which is just insane considering it's September so maybe I should appreciate the warmth.
This evening I am going into Nahari to meet up with some east coast JETs for dinner and then later on I will be playing football in Tano sports centre. Tomorrow is looking good as I get paid and it is my half day. Oh yes indeed.
Wednesday is not a very busy during or after work so I've just been wasting time and don't have much to report on. Apparently there was positive feedback from my advanced English class and another student joined this morning. I spent the rest of the day studying Japanese and as usual progress is going pretty slow. I was thinking back to when I was studying French/German at school and how unbelievably easy it was compared to Japanese. Lovely Latin alphabet... how I want to seek protection in you away from the scary kanji.
I shall end with an amusing tale of what happened after I slept in for work this morning. I had about ten minutes to wash, dress and eat so I was running about still wet from my shower but also sweating. This meant I had an absolutely horrific experience trying to get my socks on as they kept sticking. As I was struggling I started to lose my balance and slowly fell to the side. The trouble was I had a finger from each hand stuck under my heel and I couldn't move my arms to break the fall. However, I managed to lift my right elbow in an attempt to soften the blow from the wall but sadly the angle I came in at meant all I did was spin around and smash my face off the wall. A full on proper THUD echoed around the room only to be drowned out by an arsenal of expletives from my sweaty, half dressed body on the ground. I couldn't find my key either so I just left my apartment unlocked but I knew nobody would attempt to go in it because a) This is Japan and b) A rural town.
Here are some pictures from the Sports Day. I'm off to bed.
I stuck him in a jar and released him out into the wild!
It's strange how I batter the hell out of spiders/cockroaches but let the frog go even though they probably pose me the same limited threat.
I have named him Furogu
It has been quite a long day today as I was up at 7am to sort out recycling and then spent most of the day at the Junior High for the Sports Day. It was good to see them FINALLY running about rather than just standing about for hours on end practicing. I spent hours watching them practice two specific events which were over in literally two minutes. I competed in quite a few parent/teacher events including the three legged race and rely. Me and one of my students managed to do well in the race considering he was half my height and about double my weight. We fell over at the end because we ran into the pair who were meant to go next but my kid was great and we had a good laugh. I even managed to communicate my thoughts on the matter using the roughly five Japanese words I know. The rely race team composed of six guys from the Board of Education and we absolutely destroyed the other teams. Fair enough we were all youngish men but we beat the Junior High teachers which was cool. We were winning all the way and myself and Noah showed no mercy in the last two laps where we nearly lapped a few people. I went last and they hadn't even had time to put up the finishing tape. Gaijin rule! I took some pictures that I will upload sometime.
One last thought on the matter. For some unknown reason the whole school did warm up and warm down exercises to a horrendous song by Celine Dion. I even saw the baseball captain singing along to it in the front row.
After all that I returned to the office to do some sweaty/dirty preperatiorn for my first adult class. I teach the advanced lot which is great because I can talk in English and they understand most of what I say. If I'm being honest... some of them probably know more about the structure of the language than me. I was surprisngly nervous the hour or so before it started and I did far too much preperation than was required. I decieded to wear my full suit (mainly because my other trousers are crushed/dirty/drying) but I looked damn good regardless. I spent most of the 90 minutes talking about myself and Scotland. I kept trying to end it and move onto some proper English teaching but they were genuinely interested in where I came from and what I liked.
We even got talking about the problems of religion in Scotland, the different types of whisky and how genius/manufactured the Loch Ness tourist trade is. I brought some shortbread for everyone to try and played them some bagpipe music. I even did some bloody Highland dancing which looking back on now shows how much I've come along since just arriving here. If you'd have told me a few months ago I'd be in a room teaching English and Highland dancing to Japanese women well... I wouldn't have believed you. The class went better than I expected and I was feeling quite good until I came home and then I started to get a few twinges of missing home since I'd just talked about it all evening. I was quite aware that many of the students might not understand me but then of the younger ones reassured me it was "The most beautiful accent" which was quite unexpected.
I should think about going to bed soon which reminds me of something quite strange. When I woke up on Sunday morning for the cancelled Sports Day I noticed a small frog in my bedroom. I was so tired I didn't care and went back to bed. I've not even thought about looking for it since then. Maybe I imagined it.
It is now Monday evening and I'm waiting on my rice to cook as I forgot to turn it on earlier. Today was a holiday so I have an extended weekend of fun (alcohol) filled times to write about. On Friday a few of us were meant to go to Nahari Dave's place to barbecue some meat that was left over from my mountain welcome party. As a typhoon was passing by we caught the end of the tail and it has been raining all weekend. This meant the barbecue was moved to mine at the last minute as I have a covered balcony thing going on. Anyway, lots of people ended up turning up and it evolved into a full blown party right here in Tano. My apartment is pretty huge and I've found out it is an awesome venue to host such an occasion so we might plan a few more this year.
We probably all drank too much but who cares? I was even a great host and brought in extra meat/beer/ice cream when we were running low and got various breakfast stuff. I've just remembered that the toilet flooded! That was a bit of a nightmare but it was quite amusing at the time. My toilet here has the sink on the top of it so the water you wash your hands with goes straight back into filling the tank. Anyway, a plastic shell blocked the hole so the tap wouldn't stop and water went everywhere argh. We fixed it in the end but my poor towels got soaking. The next morning I filled three massive bags with empty beer cans woohoo
On Saturday I cleaned up for a bit then headed into Kochi City with Noah, Andrew and Matt. We messed about there for a bit and Noah bought a car (err I meant guitar) which means every trip to the music store has resulted in a purchase. We came back to Aki and watched a really bad film called The Black Dahlia or something... I forget.
Sunday was meant to be Sports Day at the Junior High. It started pouring down with rain so it got cancelled and I got to go back to bed which was awesome. That is now happening tomorrow and I'll probably need to participate but nobody ever explains the finer details to me. Anyway, the rest of Sunday I messed about in my apartment then I drove me and Noah up to Aki to make some Taco rice at Andrew's place. This again evolved into a night of drinking and we were joined by Marika as well. Woke up the next day and bummed about for a bit before watching some American football off the internet. I got really confused again and asked really stupid questions like "So how many points is that then?". Then we had some ramen for lunch and came back to Tano.
I think my rice might be ready which is just as well because I'm starving!
Not much of an update tonight I guess as it's nearly time for bed. I just killed a massive cockroach and now I'm concerned I can smell the excess bug spray I used...
Tonight a lot of the east coast JETs met up in Nahari (right next to Tano) for some Italian. It was a good catch up and chat about various subjects such as sloths/lemurs/polar bears and myself going off on a tangent about FIFA and how woeful the CONCACAF qualfying group is - damn Americans.
I didn't do much again today at work. I spent the first half at elementary having lunch/watching sports training/getting attacked by kids and then went to Junior High for more sports training. I had some good banter going on with the students and one girl makes me laugh as everytime she sees me she goes "HELLO HANTA! I'M HUNGRY AND TIRED. I LIKE TO EAT ICE CREAM". Also, I managed to discuss with Nasu sensei (English teacher) about Shinzo Abe's resignation, train times and midnight golfing in Scandanavia. She even agreed on my assessment that Japanese people don't care about the country getting involved in Iraq/Afghanistan and just want the pension system to be sorted. I ordered lots of fancy new studying aids to improve my Japanese studying and they arrived today. I got the textbooks Noah used at college called 'GENKI' which means something like energetic and full of life. I can't wait.
Here are some pictures I stole from others:
I've noticed old Eileen likes to make a scccrreeeeeeeee noise every so often when I start moving, I reckon first gear is half dead but as long as it works who cares? I went to turn left into the supermarket but put my window wipers on by accident and then ended up in the train station car park by mistake. In my defence the indicators are on the opposite side from back home and the two entrances are next to each other. In the supermarket I half noticed the "stalker" who likes to follow and annoy the local foreign people. Noah keeps seeing her about and I've been winding him up since I pay no attention and she is in his adult English class. I did my best to ignore her but whilst I was trying to decide between orange or apple juice she pounced on me. Man... she's a bit on the crazy side and now she's made contact with me noooooooooooo. I got my ice cream though mmm mmm
What should I write about now?
Teaching is going pretty great so far. I've finished all my self-introduction lessons with varying levels of success but mostly positive. The Junior High kids were quite hard to win over but I just about got there I think. The Elementary lot are great and fight for your attention at lunch/break and despite me knowing pretty much no Japanese I know a few phrases to interact with them all. I've been marking some English homework too this week which has thrown up a few surprises. The first task they were given was to write about their dreams (or dreems as many put) and it turns out a lot of students want to be chefs who make delicious food! I sense a lot of copying going on out there tsk tsk. Sadly the better students get the most red ink because they've tried something inventive so I make sure to give them a nice stamp. One student had written "When I grow up I want to be a nurse. I want to help sick people and to keep one's promise to my grandmother". Touching or what? Compare that to the last one I marked; "I want to de polish. I use want on car and [illegible]. I want to de polish".
That kind of sums up my teaching recently. The sports day is taking up most of the time at present and to be honest it's getting pretty monotonous. The principal keeps wanting me to go and watch them every day but they just stand there kicking dust rather than running. It's also very warm plus some teachers tell me to join in so I go home and change then it's all "Oh Hanta right yes hmm right not today". Oh yeah, did I mention I've made everyone call me Hunter now? It's much easier for them to say and it sounds much cooler I think you'd agree. It's official now as it went out in the town newsletter huzzah.
I did lots more stuff last week but I always forget after a few days. I do remember last Thursday a few JETs went to Rock Green Cafe which is an excellent little place about 20-30 minutes drive away. You get an excellent view of the sunset and it has nice food/drink along with some live music. We went to watch Dave and Nick (two Aussies who live near me) play a little set and it was a good night. Friday of course was the Junior High enkai that I've already talked about. On Saturday I went for my first drive as mentioned and then in the afternoon me, Andrew and Noah went up to the temple near Yasuda/Tonohama. This was the one where I got dehydrated a few weeks ago so it was a good goal to complete. We drove up a fair bit of the way in Andrew's beasting van which managed to survive the winding road. Even near the top it was a fair 30 minute hike to the viewing tower and we had a good laugh taking a shortcut and then running away when we saw spiders. The view was incredible as you may have seen from the picture I already posted. There was a FREE viewing telescope where you could actually see into my apartment window which is insane considering how far away it is - honestly I'll take a picture tomorrow to show how high it is. That evening we met up with Matt in Aki for dinner followed by lots of tequila and video games.
On Sunday we awoke at Andrew's place far too early with another hangover. We had to get into the city for the AMAZING RACE! as was its full title. Basically one of the JETs organised a pretty impressive scavenger hunt all over the city that had us jumping on trams and dressing up. I was paired up with Nick (the Aussie at Rock Green) who won it last year and is possibly the most energetic person I've ever met. The moment we got our first clue and Nick ran off like an Olympic sprinter I started to regret drinking the night before and having my first McDonald's breakfast in about 5 years. We were winning at the start and even tried to hitch hike our way to save spending our limited budget. It failed and as we sat sweating on the tram I remembered not only was I a foreigner (reason enough for stares) but I was a big sweaty one dressed up in a pilgrim outfit (with added walking stick) with face paint all over me. The poor locals of Kochi City didn't know what hit them that day I think. We had a bit of a setback by going to the wrong library and not being able to find our mystery book so we pretty much lost our lead. I personally enjoyed pulling some stranger into a photo booth (think Japanese style) and doing random poses with him. He even had a moustache you know. That was the AMAZING RACE! and makes me up to date with events. I shall add some more pictures and then watch some Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Oh there was something else that happened today. The Japanese Prime Minister resigned DUN DUN DUN. He was called Shinzo Abe and his party got hammered in the elections the day I arrived in Japan. Personally I hated him and his nationalist agenda. His government in my opinion have been trying to change the history of WW2 rather than just leaving it in the past like Germany. They've also been antagonising China/Korea by saying blood bathes and forced prostitution during WW2 are greatly exaggerated and never really happened. On the domestic front the Health Minister claimed that women were "baby making machines". Anyway, my opinions aside I was surprised how nobody in my office cared in the slightest. It's like Blair resigning in the midst of the David Kelly suicide a few years ago in my eyes but they just shrug and get on with it I guess. My supervisor said "They'll just get another one who nobody likes". Ah politicians... hated everywhere.
It is currently 11:26am and I’ve been sitting at the Junior High all day doing very little because the English teacher is off to the city for a meeting. That’s about 3 and a half hours of cursing myself for not bringing any Japanese books to study. I don’t have the internet here so I’m just writing in a Word document to make myself look busy. I think this is an art that every single member of the school staff has mastered. There must be about 100 pupils here but there is a staffroom full of teachers/nurses/office staff. The reason for this is the towns own the schools but the prefecture owns the teachers so when a town closes down a school the teachers are dumped somewhere else as it’s almost impossible for them to lose their job. I have no idea what half of them could be doing all day and I probably taught more classes yesterday than some will this week.
Some things that have been slightly irritating me this morning despite the boredom/tiredness/hunger is that I have the crappy desk. It reminds me of ‘The Young Ones’ when Rick is complaining about being on the rickety chair. I’m not here every day during the week so people just use my desk to dump their stuff. I’m not too bothered about that but sometimes this force of habit means they forget I’m here and pour their drinks about 5cm away from my laptop etc. The brushing of teeth/flossing/gargling right next to me is also something I could live without. Nah, I’m being too harsh on everyone but I’m glad I’m based at the Board of Education and get to go to Elementary the rest of the week.
I believe I ended last night’s update (I wish I’d slept instead!) with my Elementary lessons. I forgot to mention we had an enkai (party) last Monday with the Elementary teachers which was quite fun. I pulled the usual Japanese speech and used chopsticks which always seems to impress everyone. Also, apparently I only like the cheap sushi which everyone found amusing. I failed to mention what I do for lunch these days now that school has started. On Monday/Tuesday I eat with the Junior High students and on Wednesday/Thursday with the Elementary lot. In
My blog updates are rather sporadic these days and I am trying to get fully up to date soon. Right now I might go buy some ice cream because I had dinner and now I want something sweet. I might even drive into Nahari just because I can although I reckon I should change my socks first.
I'm trying to remember what I've done since my last big entry a few weeks ago...
It's actually quite difficult... ALRIGHT! I mentioned about indoor football last time and I can honestly say I've never come close to sweating as much as I did that night. It wasn't even proper 5-a-side either, it was some crazy game where they play on a small pitch with no walls and a flat ball (deed baw).
The next day (Friday 31st woo) saw another big welcoming party for Noah and I. There are five districts on the east side of Kochi that have some connection between them and so all the important education people from all five came. Only the Tano people were new this time but they hosted it regardless. It was held up in the mountains in what reminded me of a Cub Scout dormitory and we had barbeques/beer/musical shenanigans. It was another good night and I have another spider story to tell. We were all heading off to bed when I was looking at all the children's stuff on a bookcase and noticed something on the wall. "Heeeey look how real that spider loo... ARRRRRRGGGGGHHH". This one actually was the size of your head. It was terrible but the alcohol softened the shock.
Saturday 1st - All I can remember was the football guys in Tano were meant to be playing in Kochi City but it called off due to rain. What followed was the most impressive short notice barbeque set-up I've ever seen. I've not seen many before but I'm sure this would have been the quickest. Some bloke drove up in a truck with tables, chairs, beer kegs, meat and an oil drum to cook it in. All the guys have young families even though they aren't that much older than me which was quite scary. Yeah so me and Noah spent most of the night being portable climbing frames for all the young kids and just generally being the centre of curiousity.
Sunday 2nd - Did something... went out for dinner in Nahari.
Monday 3rd - Prepared for lessons and went to all the opening ceremonies at the schools.
Tuesday 4th to Thursday 6th - Tuesday was the day of my first lesson. Even though I've been here a month the kids have all been on holiday so I wasn't really teaching. This was actually a bad thing because I arrived all motivated and then spent 8:15-5:45pm every day sitting in an office with only Japanese books and teaching manuals to amuse me. My first class were 4th grade at elementary school (about 9) and it went pretty well. I wasn't that nervous to begin but the teacher decided to alter the agreed lesson plan and he doesn't know any English so for a minute I was just thinking "argh argh argh what what what". It went well in the end though.
One class that did not go well was the 6th grade at elementary. The class is bad enough because they're all old enough to have adopted a 'too cool for school' attitude and so they just stare at your with vacant eyes. So I had agreed a lesson plan with the teacher for a 15-20 minutes introduction and then she had other games and stuff planned. Hence my surprise when she turned a 15 minute game into 30 seconds at the start of the lesson and then naffed off out the room. Somehow I managed to teach this lethargic excuse for a class by myself for 45 minutes whilst knowing very, very little Japanese.
The following class was the complete opposite and only a year below. The teacher was brilliant and we team taught like we're meant to bloody do. My presentation went really well and they liked all my pictures and items. Everyone finds my picture of a Highland cow very interesting as well as the picture of my house - a few kids thought my 1980s semi-detached in East Kilbride was "luxurious" . Also, whoever mocked me for buying a 'see you Jimmy' bunnet is a damn fool. I ended my introduction by wearing it and then coaxing some of the students to try it on which was then followed by lots of laughter.
Right, I'm getting really tired now. You might understand why when I continue my blog update tomorrow. There's still loads to write about argh.
I will leave you with some new pictures.
I do love my new internet connection.
I can't really do any massive updates just yet as I'm busy doing stuff.
This morning all my car documents were in the post so today I have been out driving in my 1997 Suzuki Alto. Mark away down in Muroto helped me get all the nasty paperwork out the way so big thanks to him. I went out to test drive it since I'm not used to an automatic and ended up in Aki City about 20-30km away. It's a really nice drive with the Pacific on one side and the mountains on the other but as usual it is warm as hell. It's called Eileen too in case you hadn't guessed.
Last night turned out to be okay. We went to an Italian restaurant in the next town and I suppose it was authentic. I especially liked a) eating it with chopsticks b)the chicken and potatoes... and c) the 'Trainspotting' poster on the wall. Oh and some of the teachers wrapping meat around breadsticks... ah well. I even managed to have a VERY basic conversation going on with some of the women in Japanese waheh. Then we went to karaoke and they were all really drunk - dancing and falling over. The science teacher had been challenging me all week to drink as much as him and he was guttered after a few drinks pffft
The plan today is to take a wee drive up into the mountains with Noah and Andrew then maybe head into Aki for some dinner/drinks. Tomorrow morning is the AMAZING RACE!!! scavenger hunt thing in Kochi City. The last time I did one of those was in Butlins Skegness in about 1993 - older than that old bag Eileen.
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