Monday, 14 April 2008

PostHeaderIcon Electric Cherry Party

Hello. It's now nearly 1am on Sunday evening but I decided I should post an update before the new week starts. I haven't taught in so long that I'm actually a bit nervous to be starting up again tomorrow. Anyway, I haven't done much today other than cleaning and relaxing with some music and a book. Earlier this evening I realised I hadn't actually spoken to anyone for over a day so I called home. Although the main reason for this was that today has been the first day that I really missed my family. I put it in italics because I always miss them but today I really wanted to go home just for the afternoon and watch the football followed by a family dinner. So instead I made a montage of pictures of people/things back home and talked to my brother for a bit. I think we're both typical Scottish males with repressed emotions so we talked about football when really I wanted to tell him that I missed him... so I did it here instead.

I went to watch the Genki Musical yesterday (foreigners/local dialect/chairty thing) which was being performed at a terribly far 20 seconds from my house. I know a lot of people performing in it and I think they did a really good job. Everyone involved has put in a lot of effort over the past few weeks so I thought I should mention that. On the Friday night I had another enkai which actually turned out to be an excellent night. It started off pretty slow and frustrating but evolved into a fun night with good food and conversation. My Japanese was better than usual and I actually got my first ever positve feedback off of some people. I was walking home later that night and a Japanese man looked terrified when I wished him goodnight. I really think he thought I was going to kill him or something. The rest of the entry that follows is a few days old. The writing mood might be a bit contrasting.

It's Friday morning at work and that means I have nothing to do. I might be going on a school trip later today but as usual I've not really been told the details. It might be during my supposed afternoon off and whilst I'd probably enjoy it I'd still resent it slightly. Also, this past week I've found myself caught in the middle of a petty elementary and junior high school argument over school lunch. I usually eat at junior high on Monday and Tuesday and elementary on Wednesday and Thursday whilst having Friday afternoon off. I only have it off because I'm usually in work till 5:40pm the rest of the week... most other JETs finish around 4-4:30pm. However, elementary wanted me to eat there three times a week and this angered junior high as they went down to one. The end result is despite my mild hard line stance on my Friday afternoon off, Ill probably need to give it up to appease them both. This has angered me somewhat because I've found myself in the middle of the argument and was kind of bullied into agreeing to both of their demands. Considering I never take my designated 1 hour lunch break, it means I'll be working 5-6 hours over my contract hours a week. How worthwhile my work is during those hours is a separate matter...

This matter was discussed for far too long for my liking at my junior high school enkai on Wednesday night. This was another evening that turned out worse than I expected. They changed the venue without telling me so I cycled in the pouring rain to the opposite town only to find out it was right next to my house. I turned up late and was pretty much soaked through all my clothes. The fee is usually 5000 yen (£20-25) and for this I get to drink about 2-3 pints of beer, eat some cold fried food and struggle through conversation in a depressing neon-lit room. I did have a good discussion with a new history teacher (although he isn't teaching this year) despite our terrible attempts at each other's language. We talked about how some footballers are just businessmen whilst others play from the heart. Then we talked about stereotypes and views on each others respected country. I tried my best to explain that the Western view of Japan is really pretty positive and that the country is seen as a mix of traditional and modern. He then (surprisingly) went on to tell me that Japan is too traditional and that the people will need to change their views. He then asked if people stare and shout GAIJIN! at me which I thought was pretty funny. Then he brought up WW2 and inside my head I was going "no no no no no no please no argh the tension". However, he was trying to... apologise or something which made me uncomfortable so I tried to stop the conversation by just waving the matter away with "It's history. Now we're friends".

I have another enkai this evening which should be more fun since it's on a Friday night. Whilst these can be fun to drink and bond with colleagues, I find them more stressful and exhausting because of the language barrier. Also, because I work in various circles, I probably attend the most in the town and I'm scared to turn one down in case it angers someone. Also, it means that this week has been a bit too work dominated. Although on Monday I spent most of my time cutting my hair and making dinner. Last night was a bit better as I had dinner with some of my east coast friends and then just went to bed. I ate one of my favourite meals called Katsudon as there is a place in Nahari that makes an excellent one. I'll take a picture the next I order it.

Another main topic of my Wednesday night conversation was Hanami. Around this time of year in Japan the cherry blossom trees (Sakura さくら) come into... well... bloom. I didn't really know they were such a big deal in Japan before I came here but they are. Apparently they remind the Japanese people of life... as the flowers are beautiful but so short-lived. There might also be something to be said about them going out in a blaze of glory/their prime (ie. there are a lots of links with sakura being used as propaganda for kamikaze pilots/suicide etc etc). Japanese people don't like it when I tell them my street in Glasgow last year was full of cherry blossom trees. I lived in a great Victorian tenement flat and I remember walking home after an exam and the street was covered in pink. I told some people this and I could see them thinking "silly gaijin thinks he knows about famous Japanese sakura." There's no doubt that parts of Japan look beautiful during hanami and along with the parks they are also in the mountains that surround me. Hanami means 'flower viewing' and it is an excuse for families and friends to drink and eat under them. I saw lots of this when I went to Kochi City at the weekend and walked around the castle park. There were also a lot of decorations around the castle and it was a really nice atmosphere to walk about in on Saturday night. I took a lot of pictures but they just couldn't capture it the same. Indeed, for every sakura tree you see in a park there will probably be a Japanese person taking a picture with their mobile phone. Everyone in the country will have the same picture... myself included. I would have liked to have had a proper hanami but everyone I know is pretty busy with their own stuff at the moment. I met up with some other foreigners on Saturday night by chance and it was alright but I'm a bit out of that clique. Also, I ran out beer and the shops were miles away.

I actually booked a hotel room in the city on Saturday night which was quite unusual. The reason for this was I had been out on Friday night to attend an international music festival and had crashed at a friend's house. I didn't really want to go back home so I stayed in the city for the weekend but I was really tired and dirty so thought "Why the hell not?" I might just start doing this if I want to hang out in the city for a day or two. I'm always imposing on people by crashing on their floors and then just feel hungover and gargly from no sleep/shower. Yes, so Friday night I went to a bar to watch lots of people I know play music. There was a bit of a mixture with some rock, jazz, traditional Japanese and even a didgeridoo. The first band consisted of Noah, Andrew (Aki) and Andrew (Geisei) who covered the Foo Fighters and The Zutons. They've called themselves SNAS or 'Something Negative About Scotland' in some playful banter against myself. Also, they changed the lyrics of a song to make reference to me as well which was cool but I get anxious with any kind of attention. The opening lyrics made reference to my earlier months in Kochi when I told everyone that Scotland invented everything and that the Declaration of Independence was actually based on the Declaration of Arbroath. Also, it made reference to various Glaswegian insults that I'm a dirty skiver.

I think this just about brings me up to date. I'm not long back from paying an overdue electricity bill at the convenient store. This employee came to my house last night to discuss my lack of payment and it was really frustrating because I could actually understand the problem but he wouldn't stop talking. I misplaced a lot of things in February because of my broken leg so I must have lost my letter during that month. This must have been added on to March's bill which I was honestly going to pay later today but yeah I caused a problem. So anyway, the conversation went like this:

Him: Oh hello good sir. Are you perhaps Hanta-san?
Me: Why yes I am. What can I do for you?
Him: I am from the electricity company.
Me: Ah yes. Is there a problem?
Him: Blah blah blah blah bill blah blah
Me: Is it bill?
Him: Err yes. So the bill blah blah blah blah blah blah. Konbini is it? blah blah blah
Me: Konbini it is
Him: blah blah blah electricity blah blah tomorrow blah blah blah
Me: Electricity... dead is it?
Him: Yes, tomorrow.
Me: I understand. Sorry for my terrible attitude towards your company. Please forgive me.
Him: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Me: Yes.
Him: Blah blah blah here blah blah over there blah blah blah
Me: Please wait one moment whilst I call my friend. He speaks Japanese.
Him: Blah blah blah blah blah electricity

In a further bout of my newly acquired incompetent nature I sent all my money home by accident. I'd managed to save up about £2300 over the months and noticed the exchange rate had started to climb just as I got my bank accounts established. I decided from my 5 minute study of the exchange rates that they go up one day and go down the next. So when it went up two days in a row I panicked and went to the bank. I was planning on keeping 50000 yen to see me through the month but I'd forgotten I'd paid for a trip to Tokyo. So... I sent all my money home and had to get a loan off Noah or I'd be screwed and have no electricity starting today. What with all my moaning about my life here and my constant mistakes I'm starting to think that it's actually me who IS the problem. What a revelation to end on eh?


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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.