Kicking off Golden Week

GOOD #1: A Tatami Timesharer from Fukuoka, Emily, and her friend Greg, an English teacher in China, came through yesterday. They’re hitchhiking Shikoku for Golden Week, and caught a ride into town, so we had dinner at Medaka (a local izakaya) and watched Say Anything (an old-school John Cusack movie–surprisingly good; I really don’t watch movies that often, I guess, because I’d never seen John Cusack in anything before) at Hannah’s place, where they stayed the night and took off early this morning to head down to the Iya Valley. They were really cool, and it was a nice and relaxing night.

GOOD #2: Louise is here! We met up in Okayama (as we suspected, seeing as how she’s just a bit taller than I am, and my 5’9″-ish height has me towering over the people here, it was really, really easy to find each other) and have been talking nonstop all afternoon/evening. We had dinner at La Tavola, walked down to the video store, and have just been hanging out. It’s been so great so far, and I foresee this being a totally relaxing and wonderful long weekend.

BAD: I think we have a serial garbage bag trasher on the loose–that, or a gaijin-targeter. On Sunday, I came outside to see that one of Chalice’s garbage bags had ripped open and garbage was strewn all over the landing in front of her door. I thought that she’d dropped it or something, and went ahead and cleaned most of it up for her, since she won’t be back till this weekend, and I bagged it and left it outside my door to take down later.

Today, I was cleaning my apartment in preparation for Louise coming, and I tied up a full garbage bag and set it right outside my door, with every intention of taking it downstairs when I headed out in the afternoon to catch my train several hours later. As I was cleaning, I started to hear this weird banging sound coming from outside, and wondered what was going on and looked out my peephole but couldn’t see anything. I figured it was best to just stay inside and not look strange by poking my head out and looking around, and I didn’t think it could be anything strange or untoward–maybe somebody was replacing the flickering light and having problems getting it into place? But it went on for a long time, longer than I expected.

I came outside 20 minutes before my train was set to leave, only to find that the garbage in the bag had been strewn all over the landing. Several pieces of trash, including the remains of the trash bag itself, had fallen (or been tossed) down the stairs to the lower floor.

I was completely in shock. I couldn’t believe this had happened–that banging had been somebody hoisting my bag and just flinging it around for 15 or 20 minutes straight! All I could think, and can still think, is, what the hell?(??) I’ve never seen anything like it. And it was totally my trash–I recognized the wrappers, boxes, and bottles of the stuff that had been in that bag. (The lotion I brought from home, the Indian instant Maggi-brand atta noodles that have been sitting on my shelf for 4 months…) I had no idea what to think, but I was absolutely furious. Could one of my neighboring teachers have done it because they didn’t like that I left my bags outside? Could my landlords have done it? It then hit me that the same thing had happened to one of Chalice’s bags–the strange thing was that she had another trash bag outside her door, and nothing had happened to it, which was why I thought one of her bags had just ripped and everything had spilled out…but typically, if that happens, it’s just confined to one area, and not scattered across a 3-foot radius.

I was almost trembling with anger as I walked quickly down the street to the train station. It was just so random and awful–because not only were the wrappers and boxes scattered, but the food particles and fruit peelings and whatnot were there as well, and those were far harder to clean up. I didn’t have time to clean it up right then, because I would’ve missed my train if I had. When Louise and I returned after dinner, we dropped her stuff off inside and set to work cleaning up the biggest parts of it. She commented that she’s heard about people in Japan who have trash “issues”–some people collect trash, others have strange mental issues when it comes to trash bags, and so forth, so we could have some sort of serial trash obsessee. It could also be an issue with our being two of the three most blatant foreigners in town (there are plenty of Filipinas who work the snack bars as well, but we stand out far more), since none of our neighbors typically leave trash bags out and I’ve never seen any trash explosions like this. It was late enough that my landlords’ sweet shop (where we go during the day if we need them for anything) was closed, but you can bet that first thing tomorrow, I’m going down to talk to them.

It’s funny–I’ve heard all the stories from fellow ALTs with strange issues they’ve had. Hannah had a woman verbally harass her to the point of tears and was sexually harassed by another man, Nick has a teacher who didn’t know the Holocaust existed, several people have students who won’t listen, a couple have pretty difficult and trying BOE and/or JTE situations, several others have had strange run-ins with locals…but not counting Sleeping Self-Pitying Slightly-Mental Eikaiwa Lady, nothing like that really has happened to me. Before today, that is.

Strangely good day–or goodly strange, whichever you prefer

The title holds, for the following several reasons…

1. The weather today was warm and balmy–it felt a lot like summer. I wore a short-sleeved shirt and was still warm. It’s now cooling down, in that “perfect summer evening” sort of way.

2. Well, maybe it’s not good, but it’s kind of strange, I guess? Anyway. My JTE had me look through some travel guides for Europe for our 3rd-year classes tomorrow, and as I was flipping through and working my way through the katakana to identify different cities and locations, I started reminiscing about my own two trips to Europe (the summer between high school and college, I went on a 3-week trip along the Mediterranean costs of Spain, France, and Italy, with brief stopovers in Andorra, Monaco, and The Vatican, with People to People–we were “student ambassadors,” except our particular group was just a glorified tour group, heh…that was in ’99, and then I went to Rome, Venice, and Naples/Pompei for a couple of weeks with my family the summer of ’03). I suddenly was hit with this strong feeling of wanderlust, and I was tempted to just drop everything and start planning a couple of months of wandering around Europe. If not for the fact that I’ll probably just have a few weeks between my contract ending and having to settle into the city where I’m going for graduate school, I might do that after I finish JET.

3. A slightly long but amusing story…

So Chalice is on vacation for Golden Week right now. Because Hannah is as well, Chalice entrusted me with the spare key to her car. She came by on Saturday night (I was trying to rest my eyes to get rid of some eyestrain and ended up dozing off and ruined my sleep schedule that night; I fell asleep from 7 PM to 1 AM, then couldn’t sleep at all until about 5 AM, and then I slept in till 11)…anyway, when I didn’t answer the door, she left the key in an envelope in the dropbox/letterbox on my door, where I saw it the next day. She’d written a note on the envelope saying that she parked her car in the parking lot of her junior high school, and if there was a problem, I was welcome to move it.

She called me the yesterday (from the ferry to Korea–I was amazed that she still had coverage, but she certainly doesn’t now) to let me know about the key. For some reason, it didn’t hit me to ask her why she didn’t park it in the assigned parking spot that I know Lindsay set up for her for the tenants of our building. Well, I figured, oh well–the teachers would know what was going on and it’d be safe there for the week, and I’m sure our supervisor was in the know as well.

Just to make sure, though, this morning I called our supervisor to tell her that I had Chalice’s key and that her car was behind her junior high, and in response I got a very surprised and high-pitched, “Eehh?” She was as curious as I was as to why Chalice didn’t park in her assigned parking spot, and she immediately called the junior high to check with them. She called me back while I was in class, so I called her an hour later, and it turns out that she hadn’t told them and they didn’t realize that that was her car, but now that they did, it was okay and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. She asked me to please bring Chalice’s key over to the BOE after work so that we could move her car.

So I brought the key as requested, and my boss and I set out on foot to go move the car–I tagged along so that she could give the key to me once we finished moving it. She revealed to me that the teachers had noticed the “mysterious” car on Saturday (club activities meet on Saturdays as well–they also meet during the 3 national holidays we have this week! Holy freaking crap…but anyway), and they’d called the police to figure out what was going on! The police took down her tag info–they knew it wasn’t a local car (unlike the US, all the license plates across Japan look the same, except that they’re either white or yellow depending on the power of the engine; they all have a hiragana character and 4 numbers, the way we have alphanumeric sequences at home, and across the top is the kanji for the prefecture the car’s registered in), and I didn’t really get what my boss said after that, except that they were looking into it until my boss called the junior high to let them know the situation this morning.

Anyway, we IDed the car easily enough (the only one with non-Tokushima plates), went up to the teachers’ room to apologize to the faculty still there about this whole situation, and then went down to the car and got in. My boss put the key in and started to turn the car on–when it lurched and made this horrible sound. We both jumped and stared at each other, startled and wide-eyed. She tried it again, and then we both glanced down at the pedals–and saw that there were not two but three. It was a manual. I can’t drive a manual at all, and my boss said she knew “a little bit” how to, so once she got her left foot on the clutch, she turned the car on and all was well…except that she couldn’t shift the gear. The only notch she could shift it to left the car still in park, and none of the gears were marked anywhere.

Finally, we gave up and went back up to the teachers’ room, our figurative tails tucked between our legs, and my boss went to very bashfully explain the situation and consult the faculty member for his help. He took the key, started the car, and promptly moved it into an unused spot, where it’ll stay until Chalice herself can move it when she returns next weekend.

So the moral of the story: keep people in the loop when leaving your car somewhere, and warn people if your car isn’t in possession of an automatic transmission. Though in a small town, it’s okay–there are apparently no impound lots and word will eventually get around anyway.

4. When walking home from shopping (groceries, an extra pillow (to replace a really old/rather gross one Hannah’s predecessor lent me when I got here), and a new pair of shoes–green flip-flops, if you were wondering), at an intersection pretty close to Sunrise (the multistory building that houses all of the aforementioned shops), I saw a scrap of something pink lying on the ground. As I drew closer, I realized that it was a print club photo. I knelt to pick it up, thinking it belonged to one of the girls from the junior high just up the hill, and my jaw literally dropped.

It was a photo of Lindsay, Joe, and Jordan.

I actually stood there and just stared at it for a minute in disbelief–the chances of that happening are almost infinitesimal! I’ve walked down that street often–it’s where I walk/jog/sprint when I go to catch the bus, and it’s how I go to and from the grocery store most of the time. I’ve never seen it before, though, and I didn’t see it when I was walking to the grocery store earlier that day. It’s recent–they wrote “4/8” in the corner–so maybe Lindsay gave it to one of her students, who then dropped it? Joe and Jordan haven’t been in town lately, as far as I know (I know Joe hasn’t been making it to Ode to Joy/Freude choral rehearsals, because I got a k-mail from him about 1.5 hours after rehearsal was set to start a week ago that read, “f-cking beethoven!” Poor guy)…

Anyway, I breathed, “Holy crap!” and grinned and pocketed it. It’s actually quite a nice photo as well–silly, since you can’t do print club and not be silly, but good quality, and one of the better photos of all of them that I’ve seen (and now have). How awesome! What a strange bit of serendipity that was.

So today was pretty good. And in two days, Louise will be in town, so even better!