My eikaiwa classes were a surprising source of therapy this afternoon. I went to work feeling pretty dismal (I don’t think my poor boss knew what she was getting herself into when she ended up taking a position that puts her directly in charge of the (rather homesick) foreign teachers–not that she had any choice in the matter, but still) and was honestly dreading having to spend two hours making friendly conversation…but my fears ended up being unfounded.

Pretty much the entire beginners eikaiwa consisted of my explaining why I’m going home in June, and explaining and rationalizing my feelings of homesickness in simple English and slightly broken Japanese, for an audience of really kind and sympathetic elderly Japanese people–even if they can’t empathize since I’m fairly certain none of them have spent an extensive period of time abroad (and I’m sure many of them have never been abroad), they were really sympathetic and encouraging, and I did feel a lot better afterwards.

The subsequent intermediate eikaiwa also lapsed into free discussion, but just general talk about the US and travel, and we ended on the oh-so-cheery note of crime rates in other parts of the world. And then we went out to lunch at the amazing Italian restaurant in town (where the chef was totally eyeing me, because I’d just been in there on Wednesday with Julie and Hannah and had told him I’d be back the following week, since Louise and I are heading there as soon as we arrive), where the ladies expressed great interest in making sure I see a proper tea ceremony and dressing me in a kimono. It hit me that it’s really amazing how enthusiastic they are about sharing their culture with me and making sure that I feel welcome, and any time I hang out with them, in class or otherwise, my spirits get a big boost.

Couple that with the brilliant weather we had today–Louise, if the weather was like this, you only need to bring one layer at most, and pack a few short-sleeved shirts while you’re at it–and I’m feeling a lot better right now. I’m looking forward to having this weekend to rest up a bit and having a minimum of classes next week before our 5-day weekend kicks in.

Feeling the strain

I don’t really know what it is, but this week has been particularly difficult in the homesickness department. Julia mentioned that she usually only writes about the events going on in her life (and Ben as well, I would wager, though Julia’s the more regular writer on their blog), but I feel like this isn’t a true account of my time in Japan unless I account for the bad as well as the good, because no experience is perfect.

However, this entry may be short (may, Ethan–it’s not one of those, “If this is short, I’d hate to see what your idea of long is!” things, I promise), as I’m at one of my elementary schools, on a laptop with a monitor that has to be no bigger than 12″ and with a really strangely-laid-out (even for a Japanese layout, which is still unfamiliar to me) keyboard.

So I’ve booked my plane tickets home–I need to call the agency back, though, because they were supposed to e-mail me my itinerary and haven’t, so I wonder if they misheard the dictation of my e-mail address over the phone. But anyway, it’s booked–I’m arriving in Atlanta the evening of June 16th (and will have departed the evening of the 16th as well–I love the International Date Line) and leaving the morning of the 24th (arriving in Osaka on the afternoon of the 25th–not so fond of the IDL there), with stopovers in Chicago both ways. I already may run into my friend Kevin from school at the airport if he ends up flying through Atlanta that night, and several groups and individuals are trying to claim chunks of my time, which just makes me so happy.

Seriously, thinking about this trip–it’s as if it’s this one huge, glowing spot on the horizon that I’m slowly making my way towards, but it isn’t like my current situation should be giving me anything to be unhappy about. Yeah, the breakroom awkwardness at my junior high is still there (and seems to have kind of become a convention, I think), and I’m fumbling through my introductory eikaiwa lessons now that we’ve resumed after a hiatus due to the town merger, but my relationships with my elementary schools are still great and I’m not letting anybody down. I’ve also begun to assume my duties as AJET webmaster (and have unofficially become the AJET graphic designer too, I think) and already have several pending projects to either assist with or handle from the ground up, as well as assisting with the general planning going on for the year.

But somehow, it just isn’t enough right now. I keep picturing all the people I’m going to go see (Hamza, Jenn, Laura, Ethan and Bela and any other GTSO people they can round up, Avery and Caroline and Nadonnia from my short web design stint just prior to coming to Japan, my former professor Carol and maybe my friend Jason and others from my major school, maybe Kevin at the airport, and hopefully more people as well; several have already told me they won’t be around this summer but really want to catch up with me when I’m back in Atlanta for winter break), and all these images of the city at its finest–I guess 9 months of separation gives it all a really rosy tint. I won’t be able to drive, since we canceled my car insurance when I came to Japan and Atlanta traffic is crazy enough that it’s idiocy to drive without insurance (some of you may remember the accident I got into on the morning of my JET interview), so that kind of puts a damper on things, because I’ve also been compiling a mental list of what songs I want to put on my “now that I’m back in Atlanta, I can sing along to these songs at the top of my lungs while cruising down I-75” playlist.

And this week, my dad and I have sort of been “at odds”…see, I’m currently suffering from Christmas Cake Syndrome (I only first heard that term when I came here, but it’s so freaking apt–I’m 24, and the big OMGWTF You’re Turning 25 Years Old And Are Still Single “deadline” is several months away), and a 5-minute phone discussion verifying my trip itinerary turned into an hourlong talk, with my dad insisting repeatedly for the better portion of 30 minutes that I consider browsing through Indian matrimonial websites and just not letting the issue drop that I NEED a boyfriend. (He even said that if I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t spend all my time blogging–as if I write because I’m bored! I write because I want to document my experiences here for myself and my friends–and if I blog less, my parents get worried that I’m ill or something. So it seems like it’s either too much or not enough, no matter what I do…) JET is really not one of those situations that’s really conducive to starting a lasting relationship, though people have, but I can realistically see myself still being single when I leave Japan next summer. But it’s still an issue that’s always in the back of my mind, and I have to admit that I was feeling some frustration when we hung up that day.

But then the next day, my dad sent me a URL to some page on, one of the bigger Indian matrimonial sites, with a list of “the six Cs to a lasting relationship.” I guess my homesick-induced gloom had me waking up in a not-super-cheery mood already, so that e-mail honestly ruined my morning, and I sent him an angry e-mail asking him to please just stop. Seriously, living here and having such an apparently easy and fun job seems glamorous from the outside, but it’s far from a perfect situation. I’ve been here for 9 months, and yet today, I had a guy on a bike notice me, and his eyes went wide and his jaw dropped. And I walked into a restaurant last Friday and had every single patron turn around and stare at me openly. This stuff just wears you down after a while, no matter how immune to it you think you are. I’ve been really feeling the strain lately, and the last thing I need is for my parents to put even more pressure on me from the other side of the planet.

So…yeah. This hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. Writing about it has helped me to feel a bit better, and it’s kind of kept my mind occupied during my hourlong break between my bus arriving and this particular class starting. I should sign off because I’m off to teach kids world greetings and English-language janken (rock-paper-scissors) in five minutes. The great thing about these elementary school classes is that they totally take up all your attention, and you can give them your all and draw genuine pleasure and amusement from working with the kids, so they take your mind off your troubles, which don’t sting quite as much once you start thinking about them later, because you realize that there really are things about this job and situation that you truly enjoy. But despite that, everyone does need a break every now and then, and I think the time for mine has come.

Sunday workday

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but in the same post that accompanied this new site layout, when discussing the meaning of the name, I linked to an article on by a man living in Tokyo who claimed that Japan is losing its Japan-ness (I disagree–rural Japan is such a different place than the huge urban sprawl, and if he’s spent any time in any rural part of Japan, he would think differently). Well, on an accompanying page to the article, in what I’m assuming is kind of like a more selective trackback, they linked back to my entry. I’ve gotten a few hits off there, but forgot all about it until I got a couple more today. Pretty cool!

I actually had a full workday today, due to members of the PTA coming to watch classes (they didn’t come to either of mine), but we get tomorrow off in compensation. I think my week’s officially been thrown off whack now. It would’ve been nice to have 2 consecutive days to rest up (I want to finally get off my lazy butt and start moving unnecessary stuff into the bigger apartment, which I still haven’t moved into, so tomorrow won’t exactly be restful either)–but it’s nice to know that I sort of have a disjointed 4-day week this week. And then next week, I only work Monday and Tuesday, and Louise is coming down (and escaping the snow–yes, it’s still snowing in Tohoku) on Wednesday!

And though I haven’t officially booked my tickets, I’m about 80% sure that I’ll be back in Atlanta during or around the week of June 16-24. My family’s traveling after that, and tickets in July are considerably more expensive, plus I don’t want to miss the farewell get-togethers and whatnot for my departing ALT friends. I found a deal on Orbitz and want to see if I can get an even better one through No. 1 Travel, but they’re closed Sundays. (I’ve had to keep reminding myself that today is indeed Sunday…argh, this is so messed up.) To my friends back home: I really hope you’ll be in town and available! I want to see as many of you as I can.

By the way, my stomach’s doing all right–it was really bad last Sunday, but had become manageable Monday; I went to the doctor, and it turns out it was something out of the ordinary, and was on meds for a few days, and returned to work Wednesday. I wanted to take it easy on my stomach, but I had enkais on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and went into town for Open Mic Night on Friday. (And Open Mic went really well–I’m really happy with my performance, and though our crowd was sparse, they were really into it, and we all got a lot of applause.)

I haven’t seen Chalice in a few days…I should go knock on her door after I make something to eat and see how she’s doing, settling in and managing on her own in a new town. Hannah’s out this weekend, and I was gone through yesterday afternoon, then felt exhausted and not really up to dealing with other people (though going for a long walk in the cool, foggy aftermath of the evening’s rain did help–I also rented a few movies for this week, one animated tragedy (Hotaru no Haka/Grave of the Fireflies; I haven’t seen it before) and two comedies (Father of the Bride and Sister Act–I was thrilled to find that our video store does stock both), and today I had to work. I guess it’s time to assume the role that Lindsay very steadfastly assumed for both Hannah and myself 9 months ago.

The first of many farewells to come

Today was so strange and surreal. We had Lindsay’s farewell karaoke/enkai get-together tonight (with some mandatory Hannah/Lindsay/Smitha purikura beforehand); in less than 10 hours, she catches a direct bus from Ikeda to Osaka and makes her way to Kansai Airport, where she catches her flight back home to Portland. And then, about 6 weeks from now, she’s off to Africa for 2 years on the Peace Corps.

I’ll be going with her to see her off in the morning. It actually turns out that I’m the only one of the Ikeda girls who’ll be able to–Hannah and Chalice both have report times of 8 AM at their schools. I don’t have to be at my BOE till 8:30, and since they know she’s leaving, they totally will understand if I’m late tomorrow. I was hoping that one or both of them would be there, because it’ll be much easier for me to say my goodbyes if it’s not just me there on my own; I’m pretty sure we’re both going to start crying. (This is bringing back memories of the nerves I went through in the days and hours up until I left for Japan. The night before I left was just terrible; three hours of sleep, in tears, panicking and thinking I couldn’t go through with it, just horrible. Poor Lindsay herself was really stressed and disheveled earlier, but she’s done phenomenally well in being sure to get all her prepwork done early, and I think the enkai did relax her considerably.)

She actually was my predecessor for a while, and I’ve been in touch with her for nearly a year now, since she e-mailed me in early May ’05 once my placement was finalized. She’s helped me immeasurably; if not for her in-depth and detailed e-mails she always wrote me faithfully in those months leading up to my journey to Japan, and if not for her really holding my hand at the beginning and just being a guiding and guardian-like presence all this time, I can’t even imagine how much more difficult adjusting to living here would have been.

She’ll definitely be missed, and we’re all hoping for the best for her, and hoping that she’ll be healthy and happy and safe in Africa, this huge unknown. So Lindsay, take care of yourself–we all love you and will miss you. Even after we finish our contracts and move on, thanks to the contacts you’ve made here, it’s nice to know that there’s now always a town in Japan that you can call home and return to.

This hasn’t been my month, health-wise

Sheesh. First I hurt my right ankle at frisbee last Saturday, then my left thigh muscles get all stiff and strained during the subsequent week right as my ankle heals, and now that that’s healing, I get hit by some stomach-related ailment. I’ve had a mild stomachache since yesterday evening, and thought I could sleep it off, but when I woke up today it was a little worse, and has gotten progressively worse as the day’s gone on, despite my ministrations. If I stand up it becomes really bad, so I’ve been sitting for the better part of the day.

Seeing as how these health issues have been progressing upward–from my ankle to my thigh to my stomach–I’m a little concerned about what’s next, since we’re getting to the vital organs now. Heart problems? Spinal cord or brain problems? (I’m joking, Mom and Dad. I can see you rolling your eyes and snapping, “Cheh!” with a disgusted look on your face. You’re totally doing it, I know you are!)

I do feel bad, though…the new Ikeda ALT, Chalice, arrived this evening, and nearly all the area ALTs are at a welcome dinner for her now. It’s not like I won’t ever see her, since we’re all in the same building, but it would’ve been nice to have been a bigger part of her welcoming committee. She does seem really cool, just from the 5 minutes we saw each other.

I’m taking tomorrow off and going to the doctor’s office…I’m so grateful for JET’s policy on byoukyuu (paid and essentially unlimited, though you need a doctor’s note for more than several consecutive days of leave, and if you take too many consecutive days off, that could be grounds for dismissal). But it really is times like these when you realize how far away from the comforts of home and the company of loved ones you are…

Reflecting on my culture

(Man, I’m really write-happy this week, aren’t I? If you’re checking in for the first time in a while, I’m really sorry!)

Sushma and Prasanna have sent out links to the attendees of their December wedding (one of the two I attended when I went to India, the second being of Prasanna’s brother Prasad and Aarushi three days later), and it’s making me wax nostalgic about being there. It’s also making me a bit nostalgic for those really familiar traditions and ceremonies–not that a wedding is extremely familiar, since those were the first two all-out ones I’ve seen (the only one I saw prior to that was in 1990 in Pittsburgh, so yeah, that doesn’t count)…and it’s not so much reminding me of my Indian heritage, as it is helping me to think about it more.

My close friends and family know that I like to say that even though I may not do the whole outward “Indian thing” (I grew up with virtually no other Indian kids my age within reasonable visiting distance in Atlanta, so I’m a bit “detached” from a lot of this stuff…but I think that even if I did have a decent group of South Asian friends prior to college, I’d still be avoiding Desi-only parties and all of that inclusive/cliquey stuff like the plague–totally not my cup of tea), I’ve sort of internalized the culture and customs into how I make my daily decisions and view the world. Indian culture is why I have such a hard time eating out at almost any restaurant in Japan (“what do you mean sausage/bacon/chicken isn’t meat? How can you not eat meat or fish? Yes, we’re Buddhist, why do you ask?”), why I’ve never set foot inside an onsen and never intend to, and why Japan isn’t so foreign to me in some ways but surprisingly so in others. Buddhism has had a huge impact on day-to-day Japanese culture, in kind of the same way that Hinduism has become so intertwined with Indian culture. Because both religions originated from India, there are a lot of basic similarities between the cultures of the two countries; one can easily compare a sari to a kimono, the strong ties to family and ideals of respecting one’s elders ring true for both…the people both countries even stare at foreigners. (Yeah, bad joke.)

But my being one of two Indians in the prefecture (there’s a guy down in Anan who I’ve seen in passing but never talked to), not counting the ones who work at the two Masala restaurant locations in Tokushima or the Sri Lankan gentleman who co-runs the Ajiroman restaurant in Yamakawa…anyway, it makes it really easy to just not think about the specifics of Indian culture. At the same time, I often get people asking me what I am (Indian or American, or even Canadian or European on occasion), which singular nationality I am (“both” just doesn’t fly with some people–they can’t wrap their mind around one-and-a-half/second-generation people like myself), which country I like better (I really hate when people ask me that–why must I prefer one over the other?)…I also get people who keep forgetting that I’m from America because I don’t “look” American, people who think that I moved here from India and that I “went home” to my family in December…I’m really confusing everybody here.

At any rate, being Indian comes up on a regular basis–it came up in both my introductory eikaiwa classes today, and in both sessions it spawned a discussion about the similarities between India and Japan and the ease of my adjusting to Japanese life. But though I can and do talk about it frequently, I don’t really think about it. I forget that I have 3 salwar kameez and 3 or 4 kurti hanging up on the hooks on my wall–I used to feel so different wearing them, as if I were entering some alternate lifestyle or something, but that’s changed as I’ve become more in tune with my personal definition of myself and my role as an Indian and an Indian-American.

But it’s really easy to lose touch, too. I miss tasting and smelling that fantastic mix of spices and vegetables. I miss the smell of silk and the rustling sound it makes when at a pooja or any other cultural function with many sari-wearing women present–I even kind of miss the tang of mild body odor/musk in the air. I miss the slightly rough-around-the-edges, but still reverent in its obvious and matter-of-fact regularity, methodology of how the religious poojas and whatnot play out. I miss the conversations with relatives and “the Indian families,” where people have multiple conversations at once and keep trying to talk over one another as the volume keeps spiraling up and up. I miss how non-remote the ceremonies are (particularly for south Indians), and how people have the freedom to duck in and out, and even crowd around to get a good look at the proceedings. I miss hanging out with the circle of ladies in the “women’s room” and getting in on all the community gossip while the men have their own area to congregate and inevitably discuss business or politics. I miss the sound of spoken Tamil, and I even almost miss SunTV (a Tamil-language cable channel) and its ridiculous dramas (hey, Mom, how does the theme of that one we were keeping up with in India go? If you remember, sing it for me the next time we’re on the phone!). I miss the quiet peace hanging over the pooja setup in the second closet in my bedroom at home (our bonus room, and now my brother’s bedroom) when we all would meet for our quick pre-dinner prayer. I miss the tangy taste of slightly dried raisins as they mix with the scent of the kumkum my grandmother applies to our foreheads during the almost-nightly prayer time, and the mingling scents of burning sandalwood incense and camphor. I miss the feel of cold concrete under my bare feet at the temple, and the sound of the even-pitched but lilting voice of the temple priest conducting archana for us in the cool-floor-tiled room with the ornate wooden doors and the grand statue of Lord Venkateswara. I miss seeing the worn but comfortable-looking cotton sarees my grandmothers wear around the house. I miss the mixtures of bright and dull colors, the blacks and golds, the batik and paisley and floral, the vibrant and opaque, the bright shades of gold, all of which grace nearly every form of Indian art in some way or another. I miss the weight of the bangles on my wrists and the struggle it takes to get them on and off…and even the struggle to make sure the pants of my salwar kameez are long enough without falling off due to how ridiculously low I have to wear them sometimes. I miss the excitement of seeing my grandmothers after they’ve returned from India with a suitcase full of clothes and crunchies and sweets and other goodies (especially now that they’re entering their twilight years, and my elder grandmother has made the very sobering declaration that the two weddings in India in December probably constituted her final trip to India, because the stresses of international travel are becoming too much for her in her old age; my younger grandmother has echoed her sentiments to a lesser degree).

I want to take in as much of this as I can when I go home this summer, but I’m just not sure there’ll be enough time. I hope that I’m able to return in winter as well, stay for at least two weeks, and truly get my fill then. I found it so difficult to pull away from India when I had to return to Japan, because after 10 days of so much tradition and familiarity, all the differences in Japan stuck out so painfully. I’m sure that going back to the US will bring out the same sorts of sentiments when I return, but I’m really in need of a recharge and some time to surround myself with familiar things.

I actually was going to write about something completely different today, but I’ll save it for later, I guess. Oh, well.

Piling up

It’s been formally requested by my dad (happy birthday!) that I write shorter entries and maybe use more concise bullet points. The ones lately have been ridiculously long, haven’t they? I just have this urge to document every little thing–and while I’m aware of the fact that I do have an audience, no matter how meager, I just want to throw everything in “just in case,” for when I come back and read these after I leave Japan. Still, I’ll try to make my posts a little more manageable.

It’s actually been getting a little stressful here…I can’t quite put my finger on one thing that’s triggering it, though. I think it’s a combination of several things…

  • finding out as of yesterday that Chalice, the new Ikeda ALT who’ll be arriving Sunday, will need to spend the next week staying at our apartments, because the BOE apparently doesn’t want to consider alternatives that involve money (staying at a hotel, which the other BOEs we know of have done when there’s an overlap and the JET housing is quite small) or effort (having me move ASAP to my new place so she can stay here for the week, which means drafting temporary contracts and setting up utilities at my new place and canceling them here Friday after Chalice takes over Lindsay’s place). Our immediate boss is on our side, but everyone above her disagrees, and we can’t figure out why. Don’t get me wrong, we’re happy to have Chalice (and we’re trading off with Lindsay because she’s going INSANE with last-minute preparations)–I just wonder why our BOE has made this of all decisions.
  • planning my trip home…the week I want to go home is the same week my parents are now planning to not even be in Atlanta. I want to go to Boston, want to see the wedding and the relatives, want to see my family…but I really want to see my friends and all the familiar things about my home that I’m really craving. I’m really not sure what to do.
  • also planning a trip to Sendai to visit a professor from Georgia Tech who’ll be there for the summer, but she doesn’t quite know her availability yet.
  • rugby this weekend. There’s a major rugby tournament that Tokushima’s hosting not far from here, and a lot of people from across the prefecture and the country are coming. I really want to go on Saturday, but right now I think I’m the only person who doesn’t intend to spend the night out there (it’s a 2-day tournament, so it’d make sense to go Sunday, but I really want/need that time to myself), so unless I can secure a ride to a train station, or call a ¥2000-ish taxi, I can’t go at all.
  • cleaning my apartment, packing, and carting my stuff down a flight of stairs into my new apartment. And rounding up my friends to help me move the aircon/fridge/washing machine/chest of drawers/etc.
  • looking for a car. I’ve been getting rides from people a lot lately, which usually involves them going out of their way (anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes). There’s also the matter of my taking the lunch truck to/from classes, and as usual, I’ll have to arrive at my elementary school 2 hours early tomorrow due to the bus schedule.
  • putting together Golden Week plans. Louise and I are definitely checking out Iya one day, and I want to go back to that open market in Ko(u)chi again, and maybe spend time in Takamatsu (Starbucks!) and/or Tokushima, but past that, I don’t know. We need to do some research.
  • tomorrow being my first day of classes, and having a class of students who have NO English experience, since this is an all-6th-grade class. That’s completely new for me. All my classes also start up next week, and this’ll be the first time I’ll need to have several different lesson plans each week–my Double-Length School of DOOM has actually purchased its own English materials it’d like me to start using, and there are varying levels throughout all my classes…
  • strained a muscle in my left thigh (this is why you need to STRETCH when you work out, especially if you haven’t worked out in MONTHS–I’m such an idiot), so I can’t really run, and I can feel it straining when I even walk quickly. I’ve been kind of limping slightly to go easy on it. If it doesn’t heal up in the next few days, I may have to see the doctor next week.

…er, whoops. So this wasn’t shorter, but the bullet points are a lot more concise than they could be! Sorry, Dad. But yeah, I guess all these “little” things are finally adding up.

I’m now off to Sunshine to buy sausages, among other things. (Heh, I can see my friends’ eyebrows shoot WAY up–don’t worry, they’re not for me. I haven’t caved under the pressure of Japan’s anti-vegetarian lifestyle just yet!) Later, guys.

They’re growing up so fast!

Today was the nyuuin shiki, or the “entrance” ceremony for the new students. It was like a reverse graduation, except instead of everybody walking up onto the stage and receiving their diploma/certificate and then hearing a lot of speeches about how they were the future and how they would be missed, they just stood when their names were called and then we heard a lot of speeches about how they were the future and how they were welcome.

The staff and 2nd/3rd-years (it’s so weird to look at these little kids and realize that they’re now the biggest kids in the school–I guess they hit their growth spurts as the year goes on?) spent the first half of the day was spent preparing the gym. I helped to wipe down the tarps that covered the gym floor, and had to keep tugging at my shirt to make sure it wouldn’t ride up as I crawled around. When I got to the end of the long tarp I was working on, though, I looked up and saw a group of several girls staring at me, wide-eyed and startled and not smiling for a change. “Sumisa!” one gaped. “Senaka!” Another chimed in with, “Senaka ga mieru!” I quickly apologized, trying hard not to grin at how scandalized they were by this, and tugged my shirt down again as I stood up.

And then, after lunch and the staff hurriedly changing into their nicer clothes, the ceremony itself got underway, and all of the kids–and I taught each and every single one of them in elementary school–filed in. It was weird seeing all these kids, who had been in either the more lax elementary school jacket/shorts/white-shirt uniform or just casual wear, in the blue/white (for girls) and black (for boys) of the uniforms of my junior high. I actually felt a little sad and thought, “Oh, man, they’re all becoming institutionalized now, the poor things…”

(I also got a huge kick out of the fact that no fewer than 6 of my 2nd-year boys were nodding off, and the kids sitting around them were trying as hard as they could to not openly smile or laugh.)

Near the end of the ceremony, the teachers all stood up and filed to the front of the gym as the vice principal introduced us. I hadn’t been aware of this, and if I had been, I think I would have taken more care in my morning rush, because I’d pulled on a pair of brown socks to match the more casual outfit I’d been wearing, and hadn’t even considered that I would be changing into my black suit and blue shirt later in the day. So there I stood, black suit, blue shirt, brown toe socks (with a hole in the big toe of the right sock–don’t ask me how it happened, I have no idea), and bright blue indoor slippers. Great. But despite my embarrassment, I got a chance to grin at all my kids. They’re such a great group, and it’s cool to know that I’m already pretty well acquainted with them all, which will make teaching a lot easier. (Now if only I could learn all their names…)

And they totally recognized me, too, and as I was walking out of school, several of them waved me over or ran over to me, positively beaming with pride at now being official junior high students, and apparently showing true happiness at getting to see me more often, too! I’m embarrassed to admit that if not for the bright pink and blue ribbons they wore in lieu of corsages, I would have mistaken them for my first-years from last year (and did indeed make that mistake with a couple)! But it was really sweet of them. And on my walk down the hill that my junior high sits on, the car of the mother of one of my now-first-year girls–one of the quietest ones, actually, who rarely smiled or said anything in class–slowed down, and the mother offered me a ride. I got the feeling that the daughter told her who I was, which was why she slowed down, and that just made my afternoon complete.

In other news, it’s spring, it’s been raining like crazy, the Yoshinogawa (River) is positively engorged (it’s even flooded a couple of particularly low-lying roads, which didn’t seem so low last week), and it’s as humid as Atlanta is in the summer. And it’s APRIL. I wish I had time for a shower before heading out to meet Yuri for dinner in Sadamitsu…oh well. Even despite all that, today was really a good day, and it has me in high spirits for this coming academic year.

Inclement weather

Hi to everyone who’s stopped by courtesy of a very kind compliment and subsequent link from the LiveJournal JETjapan community! I doubt most of you will be back, but if you do check in again, feel free to say hi and tell me a bit about yourself, if you’d like. ;o) It’s cool to get an idea of what other JETs are like who come across this.

So I’ve said repeatedly that the distance becomes particularly keen when something not good is going on at home. Adam’s death triggered a lot of homesickness in waves over the past month, though I rationally knew that there wasn’t anything I could have done had I been there. However, something new has come up–inclement weather.

Atlanta is one of those areas in the US that’s prone to those nasty buggers called tornadoes. Some unseasonably nasty storms have already started coming through this early in the season (and tornado season technically only runs from May to September, if I remember correctly), including a bad storm that came through metro Atlanta and spawned several tornadoes, TWO of which hit my city. Though I knew that nothing had happened to my family because the news reports specified exactly where the tornadoes hit and because I called home and got the answering machine, it was a bit nerve-wracking, just not knowing.

I finally talked to my mom tonight, though. It turns out that there were multiple touchdowns within a 15-minute radius of our house (meaning that if you drove up to the highest points in our neighborhood, you would have had a shockingly clear view of them), but my family sustained no damage, which is a huge relief. Mom said that “there were about 10 to 15 minutes that were really scary, because the wind was really, really strong,” but that’s all. It’s just rare that they get so close–the last time I can remember was when I was in high school.

Another byproduct of Mom’s call, though, is that if I do fly back to the US in late June/early July, I may now be flying into and out of Boston. A second-cousin is getting married and my family is planning on being in Boston during the first few days of my trip home…so we’ll see what happens with that. I also didn’t realize that our semester goes until mid-July, so I would totally be missing class to take this trip, which I was hoping to avoid. But to go during vacation time means that I miss seeing a lot of my JET friends off, and that I miss a lot of the orientation stuff that I’m kind of obliged to attend. I have to decide soon.

I should write more topical posts…Michelle asked me ages ago to talk about my kids and I don’t think I have, but due to the nature of my schedule, I really don’t know any of them well enough to be able to say a lot, and I know very, very few names. Got any other suggestions?

A weekend of frisbee

Wow–my entire body is so sore. Even coughing made me gasp with pain earlier. And I think my face is either sunburned or windburned from running around and standing out in such strong winds yesterday; my forehead’s peeling, and when I got home and took a look in the mirror, my nose and cheeks were pink, and my lips look as if I’m wearing lipstick. My ankle also hurts, which was the deciding factor in why I’m not playing frisbee in Kochi today.

(Side note: It’s actually “Kouchi,” since the first kanji has a long O sound, but it’s usually written as “Kochi” with a line over the O. I’m always puzzled as how to type it.)

So, the usual list of highlights…

  • frisbee!
  • finally meeting the ALT who lives in the neighboring town just west of us in Ehime Prefecture! It’s a bit of a long explanation…my town, Ikeda, is in the northwest corner of Tokushima Prefecture, and we border Kagawa Prefecture to the north and Ehime Prefecture to the west. You can get to Kagawa and Kochi (to the south) easily by train, but there’s no direct way from Tokushima to Ehime except via car. I’ve driven into Ehime before, to Kawanoe, the first major town across the border (only 30 minutes from here), and we passed an elementary school just a couple of minutes over the border (so about 20 minutes from my apartment)–my first thought upon seeing it was, “I’m sure an ALT teaches there, but I have no way of knowing who.” Dennis and I have exchanged phone numbers, so maybe we can start coordinating some cross-prefectural stuff now.
  • frisbee!
  • receiving a set of miniature origami of the hina matsuri doll arrangement! I have no idea if this was something they made for all the visiting ALTs, or all the visiting female ALTs, or what, or if she inexplicably just gave them to only me, but they’re beautiful. They’re maybe 1″ to 1.5″ tall and wide, and really, really intricate. I have to put them into a more permanent decorative arrangement somehow.
  • frisbee! (okay, I’ll stop now)
  • met a bunch of ALTs from Kochi and a few from Ehime, as well as many of the usual ultimate frisbee group from Tokushima (Nate, Ellie, Mat, Anya, Kelly, Rory, Dan, Elliott), though a few regulars were unable to make it. Also met some really cool nihonjin from Kochi, who were fabulous frisbee players and great people all around.
  • met a Kochi ALT from Jamaica named Kieran, and I immediately thought, “Halcyon.” (Kieran Halcyon is the assumed name that Corran Horn, a really awesome character from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, takes when he enrolls at Luke’s Jedi academy.)
  • did something to my knee and ankle–nothing bad that a day or two of rest won’t heal, but this is the first time I’ve done any serious athletics in months, since the last ultimate get-together. I probably pushed myself too hard. I’m also used to being able to throw a frisbee around casually for a while before we start up a game of ultimate, as a warm-up, but we took one exit too early on the expressway, and unlike American freeways, these exits are few and far between (and all toll roads), so we ended up arriving 20-25 minutes late.
  • before lunch, we’d split into 3 teams, with several subs per team, and played 3 round-robin games to determine the ranking for the “playoffs” in the afternoon…our team had been 3rd. But then after lunch, they decided to start from scratch, and broke us up into 4 teams, with one sub per team, and simultaneously play 2 games, and have the winners of each battle it out for first–and my team ended up winning! Not from anything I did, because I was pretty rusty and fumbling a lot, and also not pushing myself too hard since my knee/ankle had started to act up before lunch, but it was still cool, and an extremely close game. Our prize was that we all got to split a big bottle of sake from the town of Sakawa, which has a centuries-old sake tradition.
  • having the Ikeda train station try to contact me 4 times before I was able to call them back–Louise’s return tickets from her trip here for Golden Week are now confirmed as well!
  • barbecue dinner (with my own veggie-only grill) and bonfire at some bungalows atop a mountain just outside Sakawa, a little ways west of Kochi City, where we spent the night. I rode with Mat, and we got far ahead of the rest of the cars who were following us (but stopped because they weren’t sure if we were going the right way) that we were able to stop the car several times and take some photos of the incredible view. I had fun, but I think alcohol (namely, a can of Sapporo Beer and two shots of sake) makes me uptight and cranky, which is sort of the opposite of its intended effect.
  • had a guy, in his semi-drunkenness, start referring to me as “baby” (by far my least favorite of all those for-fun pet names/terms of endearment, ugh–hear my inner feminist roar!), and when I told him to stop, he actually did, and apologized, which was really nice of him (and a little unexpected).
  • opted out of playing frisbee today because my ankle was still hurting, so I caught a ride to Kochi City with Mat, who’s in the process of taking the long and apparently really beautiful drive down to Muroto and along the beach, going east along the southern coast and then up and back into Tokushima. I just barely missed the 11 AM express up to Ikeda, and there’s a weekly and well-known Sunday open-air market that we both wanted to check out, so we parked and wandered around for nearly an hour.
  • while wandering through the market, which was bustling and really charming, we got caught on camera by a camera crew, and smiled and waved a bit, and Mat said (in Japanese), “This market is really fun!” and I chimed in (also in Japanese) with, “It really is!” That pretty much guaranteed that we’re going to make it onto local TV.
  • a stall was selling a box of FULLY VEGETARIAN SUSHI. It was astonishing, and really delicious! The inari and shiitake especially rocked.
  • Mat showed me the Recent Calls list on his cellphone…out of the 30 most recent calls, 4 are from Jim, 1 is from Jenna, and 25 are from Stalker Girl. She’s still been calling him daily! He set his phone so that it doesn’t ring or give any indication when she calls so it doesn’t disrupt him, and he’s let the people at his church know to keep an eye for her and welcome her if she comes to their Easter service next week, which was a really rational and kind gesture, since she’s obviously in need of some guidance/outreach.
  • we parted ways at the garage, my walking the 10 minutes to Kochi Station (it reminded me so strongly of an Indian airport–the same sort of beaten-down, dusty, tired look from the outside) so he wouldn’t have to drive out of his way and could start on his 4.5-hour drive. I got there with 15 minutes to spare for the next express train home, got stared at in Ikeda by people who I’ve totally exchanged greetings with numerous times before (one shopkeeper even stared at me with her jaw hanging slightly open), bowed politely at a car holding a local politician and his staff as they drove down the street my apartment building’s on while broadcasting election propaganda from loudspeakers on top of the car (and got big grins and bows in return), came home, took Advil, and got online.

And now, I need to go to the bank, pick up some photo printouts, and go to the station to pick up Louise’s tickets. Then, maybe I can take a long, hot shower and go to sleep early–I have a 7:40 AM bus to catch to make it for our opening ceremony at my junior high tomorrow.

I think I need to either post more often or just tone down the wordiness. These posts are freaking long, and I’m using a lot more web space than I used to…