Of sleep and generosity

I think the rapid drop in temperature has made me sick (AGAIN!), because I was dozing at work today, and actually fell asleep for 10 minutes when I ducked out of the office and into one of the bathroom stalls to “regain my strength.”

When I finally emerged, embarrassed and self-conscious as to whether anyone may have noticed how long I was in there, I ran into one of my eikaiwa students, a really spunky lady in her 30s who (along with her good friend, another of my students) is one of my two best intermediate-level English speakers–she hasn’t been able to come as often lately due to being busy with running her husband’s family dress/kimono shop. We chatted for 5-10 minutes because it’d been about a month since I saw her last, and I’m now meeting her for coffee this evening–in about 10 minutes, actually.

I also had my final Halloween class today–lots of compliments, lots of wide eyes and grins from the kids, and I startled a lot of teachers when they walked into the teacher’s room and saw my purple wings, which was awesome. It was my first class where I really noticed the kids struggling to be creative, though–a problem that many ALTs discover, because creativity and original, individual thought isn’t stressed as much as learning the facts is in the Japanese school system. My kids generally are good about it, and with all my other classes I got some really original jack-o-lantern and costume designs (our activity for the Halloween class–we did masks last year, but I didn’t want to repeat it for the many kids who already did it, especially since they still have last year’s masks). It’s just something I have to be more mindful of.

I just met up with one of Brian’s eikaiwa students, who works at a local temple. We met again at the eikaiwa Halloween party that Julie/Sally/Brian combined to throw, and exchanged keitai info, and have been e-mailing back and forth. I offered to get her some cream-filled momiji manju from Miyajima. She told me that she’d gotten me something as well…she had today off, so she drove here. In return for my small bag containing only 5 momiji manju, she gave me a box of chocolate from when she went to Hokkaido, free passes for the ropeway cable car to and from the temple she works at, some cookies and persimmons, and a mochi ball!

I now have a dilemma, though…Sunday’s the day of an annual festival at her temple, but it’s also Events Day at the art show that Chalice, Brian, (Chalice’s) Joe, and their friend Charlotte are hosting with the Kamiyama Artists In Residence. I could go tomorrow instead…but I was hoping to take it easy and just do some shopping instead of a major excursion. I guess I’ll figure something out…but for now, I need to go meet my friend. I’m glad we’re getting coffee–I could really use it.

Uh, what?

Have you ever had one of those days where you’re just not there, where you start talking and have no idea what you’re saying until you listen to what you’ve just said and then wish you could take it back just so the people you’re talking to will stop staring at you in a really puzzled/weirded-out/concerned way?

Yeah…

The sun had already set (or was close to it) and dusk was falling by the time I left my board of education at 5:15. This morning, it was finally cold enough that I could very easily see my breath. I’m blaming my disorientation on the rapid seasonal change.

That time again

It’s time for that annual tradition: The Unearthing Of The Kotatsubuton.* The sudden dip in temperatures means sitting at my kotatsu, which doubles as my computer table, is becoming quite chilly.

But then it hit me: if I can hold out till this weekend, I can drive up to Takamatsu, find the Loft up there, and buy a new kotatsubuton set. They have some really gorgeous ones…and I chose mine last year kind of on a whim and then kind of regretted it 2 weeks later. (Teddy bears and a blue and yellow checkered print are cute at first…but they lost their novelty quickly, and they’re not particularly neutral, especially if my successor is male.) I figure that it’s worth the “investment” for a really nice set, since these will be out and in constant use (and view) for at least the next 3 or 4 months.

(Never let it be said that I’m not obsessed with that place.)

*What is a kotatsubuton, you ask? It’s a combination of the words “kotatsu” and “futon”–with some Japanese words, when they become the second half of a compound word, their initial consonant sound changes and “hardens.” (H/F -> B, S -> Z, and T -> D, to name a few.) A kotatsu is a low electric table with a heat lamp built into the bottom. The surface of the table is removeable, so you can drape a thick comforter-like sheet, the kotatsubuton, over the top and then place the table surface back on. And underneath the kotatsu, you put another one down on the floor itself, so you’re sitting on one futon and under another one. When the heat’s on, it’s very nice. Mine got me through last winter.

I started messing with the back-end of the Tokushima AJET site tonight for the first time in a while. CPanel’s Fantastico feature provides a lot of built-in software, which is nice…I’m torn between Joomla and TikiWiki. I’ve installed Joomla, but CPanel crapped out while I was trying to install TikiWiki. Once I can play around with both adequately, I’ll work on implementing the site through one of those two.

For now, though, I’m tired. My shougakkou tonight was really unruly, and I couldn’t for the life of me get them to quiet down. I’m going to go stuff my kotatsubuton, teddy bears and all, back into my closet, and brush my teeth and rest up. Taking Monday off has totally screwed my perception of time and where in the week I am.

Kind of a recap

Crap, I almost forgot to update today!

Back from Hiroshima…I was really tired last night and today (in part because the weather suddenly got really cold overnight, and the wind was gusting so hard that it woke me up at 5:30 AM, and I ran out onto the porch to rescue my clothes from being blown into the Clothing Black Hole over the railing). I also realized that I didn’t have nearly as much fun as I thought I would, because the sheer amount of blatantly unfriendly staring and the surprising amount of snide “oh, she’s an idiot foreigner who probably doesn’t understand Japanese, so let’s mock her” comments really stressed me out and kind of ruined my weekend. I’m used to only having those moments occasionally–I can handle sparing ones. My nerves were really fraying at the end, though, and even in Okayama, when boarding my train back to Ikeda, I got this really imperious, almost affronted stare from a woman on the train car I boarded.

However, when I let it slip to my JTE today, she immediately worked it into the lesson we did with the 3rd-years, insisting that it was an important lesson in awareness that the students needed to know. And it did open the kids’ eyes–while I doubt they ever were rude to a foreigner the way half the population of Hiroshima was this weekend, they probably didn’t realize how we feel when we’re singled out just for not being Japanese, and I could tell that it did get them to start thinking. I really am grateful for my JTE.

There was plenty of good this weekend, though…I walked a lot and my legs feel more toned, and I also had a lot of chances to relax. Since I’m not big on “nights on the town,” and I would never go into a bar alone, I ended up hanging out in coffeeshops all 3 nights, which isn’t something I really get to do here at all. I also got to eat a pretty wide variety of foreign foods…excellent Indian, Italian, Indonesian, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, mediocre Indian, and Tex-Mex. I bought some goodies–candle holders at Loft (they didn’t have the lamps I’d been eyeing…however, there’s a Loft in Takamatsu, which I can totally hit up some weekend, and fill my car with all the Lofty goodness I couldn’t carry in my arms on the bus/train! SWEET!), a new sweatshirt at UNIQLO, a couple of used books (The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – Stephen King, and another book that’s a discussion between an Indian Hindu and a Japanese Buddhist about spirituality) and some used CDs at BookOff (“Hangin’ Tough” – New Kids On The Block, “Spellbound” – Paula Abdul, “Best Friends” – Yoroiden Samurai Troopers/Ronin Warriors OST).

There’s a lot I could write about the Peace Park (besides the fact that I was accosted by Jehovah’s Witnesses) and Itsukushima Jinja on Miyajima, but those kind of deserve their own entry–particularly the bomb memorial and Peace Park.

Tonight I gave Julie another violin lesson. The weather got freaking cold, to the point that I actually had to pull out my heavy grey coat (it was probably overkill, but it felt so nice…as cold as it is, I’m astonished that I couldn’t see my breath outside). Instead of making her walk 20 minutes in the cold to catch a train, I drove 15 minutes in my heated car out to Mikamo after dinner, and we talked for an hour after our lesson, which honestly reenergized me and gave me a huge lift after feeling fairly dejected after the weekend (and after repeating one of my snide-comment stories 8 times over the course of 2 classes, since we’d made a “how was your weekend?” dialogue where it featured prominently; obviously that didn’t help my efforts to get my mind off it).

Okay, less than 20 minutes to get this in…and I really should get to bed. Good night, guys.

Wrapping it up

I just had some rocking vegetarian chili and pecan pie for lunch. What an awesome way to end this trip (starting the 30-min walk to the station–there are trams but I want the exercise). I love big cities and all their wonderful food.

Part 2

500 chars is way too short.

Miyajima was really beautiful…and REALLY touristy. Some Japanese people could tell I wasn’t a typical tourist, though (I could pick out a few other ALTs too), and I had some good conversations, especially with the guy who I caught commenting about me to his wife.

This has been a good trip. I do like Kobe/Osaka better, but Hiroshima’s a nice city, very walkable, with a lot of nice surprises. I def. want a travel buddy from now on, though.

Miyajima

The DALAI LAMA is on Miyajima! Holy crap! I found out when at an okonomiyaki place…my waiter studied Indian spirituality at Hiroshima U. and spoke great English…and made me feel stupid when he realized I didn’t know about the Dalai Lama. Still, what a cool thing, to be in the same place as him.

I had another “yes, I understand you talking about me” moment. (Hi, Ethan!)

On the tram now…a guy just leaned over to stare at this message, nodded, then got up and changed seats. Weird.

Hiroshima

The bomb museum was very heavy. Very moving and chilling. Some parts were very difficult to watch and to look at. I’m surprised i didn’t cry–I came very close.

And 10 minutes later, when walking towards the cenotaph and A-bomb dome, I was appoached by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Talk about choosing an inappropriate time and place…

Hiroshima

Nice so far. Went to an art museum (free admission b/c today’s Culture Day) and manga library in a park. Met a cool Aussie guy (gaijin solidarity!) working as a game programmer, taking a play-by-ear trip around Japan, then lost him when we found that my hotel was full. I hope he finds a place to stay. Got a msg from one of my new post-Halloween-party Japanese friends wanting to hang out this weekend…dang. About to go out for Nepalese and to just wander.

Almost forgot

That would’ve been an awful beginning to a month where I’m supposed to be posting daily…whoops.

I drove to the video store. In a town where everything is within very reasonable walking distance, I drove 2 minutes instead of walking 15. Granted, every day is chillier than the one before it, and I haven’t yet dug out my sweaters and long-sleeve shirts (except for a couple I never put away just in case). I need to dig them out for this weekend.

I had another of those encounters today where I saw someone in my direction from way down the street, and where I totally noticed that he was staring at me the entire time he walked, almost unblinkingly. As I got closer, he started glancing around conspicuously, and very conveniently looked away just as I bowed to him, and continued to stare as we passed each other. Ugh.

Jennifer, a friend from my GTSO days, is doing NaBloPoMo as well, and her latest entry is about dropping an earring stud down her bathroom sink drain. Did I mention that I dropped a fork down my kitchen sink a few months ago? I’d removed the mesh food-catching drain cover to clean it off, and when it did, the fork teetered and slipped in before I could catch it. I now wonder if I dropped a knife down it at some point, because I’ve been missing the duller of my two sharp knives for a while.

Okay, on to the recap portion of this entry…

Tuesday night was an eikaiwa Halloween party–Julie, Brian, and Sally combined their eikaiwas. It was a lot of fun! There were some really good and really cute costumes there, and I recognized some people and met a bunch of others, and had some really good conversations with a lot of friendly people. There was also a bunch of vegetarian food (including some very awesome 100% vegetarian yakisoba!), because Sally’s a pescetarian. That was a really pleasant surprise.

My costume’s continued to be very well received; the teachers at my second elementary school today were so taken by it that one of them had me pose with several random students who hadn’t yet gone to lunch so she could snap a photo, and several others asked to try on my hat, and were ecstatic when I offered them the wings. Some very hilarious photos involving these normally composed teachers striking rather sultry poses soon followed.

I haven’t packed a thing for Hiroshima/Miyajima (though I did do laundry, and I found the fleece that I thought had flown over the edge–it turns out I hadn’t even washed it yet, though I was positive that I had…at least it isn’t lost!). Luckily, I’m not planning on leaving till 1 PM, so I have time in the morning. A bunch of ALTs are going camping in Iya this weekend–I’d decided I wanted to use the weekend to travel, though, but they’re meeting at Awa-Ikeda Station and leaving in a carpool caravan from there, so I’ll go hang out with them before catching my train. It isn’t often that so many people from all over are in my corner of the prefecture!

Okay, that’s enough for now. Well, one more thing: black tea with honey is bliss. Pure bliss. But yeah, now that’s all.