I just had a really, really great workout, which consisted of walking around Ikeda for 2-3 hours. Specifically, I walked west on the 192, across the Yoshinogawa (River–redundancy #1; kawa/gawa = “river”) via the Ikeda Ohashi (Bridge–redundancy #2; hashi/bashi = “bridge”), past my junior high school, back across the Yoshinogawa via the Miyoshi Bashi (Bridge–redundancy #3), and back. I’ve been sitting so often lately (sitting at my desk at the community center, or at my desk at the junior high, or at a random desk in the teachers’ room or principal’s office of any of my elementary schools, or on the bus or train, or on cushions on my floor) that I just had to get out and walk around, and the weather’s still unseasonably warm, which lent itself really well to my spending time outside. The leaves are finally beginning to change colors, so I snapped quite a few photos of the surrounding mountains. I wanted to take photos of the town, but that can happen another day.

Right as I started my trip, I happened to pass in front of a kimono store owned by 2 of my eikaiwa students–the husband is in my beginners class and the wife is in my intermediate class. They invited me inside to look around, and the wife brought me upstairs to show me their kimono show/storeroom, which was quite stunning. (Mom and Dad–she asked me to bring you by the store when you come, so she can show you different garments as well.) It turns out this store is over 80 years old, and was started by the husband’s grandfather. When I came downstairs, they presented me with a gift: a drawstring purse made out of indigo-dyed cloth (denim?), with a butterfly on the front. It’s really beautiful, and it was completely unexpected and very generous of them to do so.

So now I’m back, and just resting for a bit before I figure out what to do for dinner, and whether or not I have to hike down to the video store to return stuff today, or whether they’re due tomorrow.

Lindsay did all my dishes last night, apparently in return for my helping her move a trundle bed up and down 3 flights of stairs (her mom was here and needed to use it), and apparently because she just likes doing other people’s dishes on occasion.

This weekend I’m here alone. There’s a camping trip in Iya, which I was going to go on, but I backed out a few days ago because of my head cold. Lindsay’s there, though, and Hannah’s in Osaka, so it’s just a quiet evening on my own. I’m watching Contact (hahaha, “Viva Las Vega”…and why does Michael Kitz keep staring unblinkingly at Ellie?…and Hadden went to Georgia Tech! “Once upon a time, I was a hell of an engineer”–so great), which is one of my favorite movies of all time–I rented it last weekend and have to return it today, but hadn’t watched it before now. (I also rented Return of the Jedi this week–the 1995 pre-Special Edition version, of course, because I don’t consider anything after that to be canon :P–and watched it a couple of times, on my own and with Lindsay. This was my first post-ROTS viewing, and now that the story has been completed, this film is a lot more powerful and there are so many subtle elements that have a completely new meaning or dimension to them. And the ending…just…wow. I do have to admit, though, I almost was craving an older version of Hayden Christensen instead of Sebastian Shaw, to give it more closure–an older version, not the smirking version on the DVD. But anyway. I could write a long essay on ROTJ alone, or an even longer one on characterizations throughout the 6-film saga (haha, masters thesis topic! I wish…), but neither of those would fit the scope of this journal, so I’ll hold off.

All right, that’s all for now…I’m most likely taking the GRE in Osaka next weekend (whew–3 hours on a bus to take a 4-hour test, only to take another 3-hour bus back). I also have a lot of lesson planning to do–West Mountain Shougakkou would like me to do double-length lessons for all the classes I teach there in November, except that I’m doing four classes at West Mountain in November (as opposed to every other week, to make up for having no classes there in October or December), meaning I’m going to have to plan ahead by at least 4 lessons. I also definitely need to catch up on uploading all my photos, because I have a lot to edit and put up, as well as creating sets of the images that are already there.

More generosity

Got a head cold and have to sleep soon (should have been asleep an hour ago, but that’s the story of my life), but I just wanted to list these…

  • because I woke up feeling crappy, I took longer than usual to get ready and intentionally missed my bus and caught the train that left 12 minutes later but made me walk more than 3 times as far to get to my junior high. After getting off the train and turning to walk down the long stretch of road towards the long this-is-not-a-pedestrian-bridge Miyoshi Bashi (“bashi” being a form of “hashi” for “bridge,” so therefore, “Miyoshi Bridge”), I saw a car pass me and then pull over ahead, and when I came closer, I saw the window on my side was rolled down. An elderly gentleman called out to me as I happened to glance through the window, and he asked me where I was headed, and when I told him, he offered to give me a ride! And so I took him up on his offer (I know you’re freaking out, Mom and Dad–but this town really is that trustworthy, and it’s just wonderful), and we had a really warm and friendly little chat as he drove me the kilometer to my school, taking me up the hill and dropping me off right at the front entrance. I wish I got his name…but maybe if I catch the train again tomorrow, I’ll see him again.
  • the taxi driver taking me up to West Mountain(top) elementary school pulled over when we were halfway up the mountain, got out, and plucked 3 persimmons off one of the numerous orange-laden trees lining the road, and got back into the car and gave them to me, explaining that these were on his friend’s property and his friend always told him to take as many as he wanted. I’m now up to 43 persimmons from 5 people (Lindsay, my landlady, stern-looking but really kind-hearted woman from work, woman whose house is behind the bus stop close to my junior high where I wait 3 days a week, and today’s taxi-driving gentleman)…and I still have yet to eat any of them. I don’t think I should ever complain about not having to anything to eat as long as I have this growing stockpile, but I think that they’ve become such an entity that I forget that I can eat them.

Okay, anyway. Sleep!

Okay, so I lied

This entry isn’t going to be about my kids, like I promised (sorry, Michelle). Instead, it’s going to be a really short one on generosity.

I have about 30 persimmons (or “kaki” in Japanese–they’re in season in southern Japan, if you didn’t know) sitting around my kitchen, courtesy of one of my eikaiwa students, one of the women in the board of education, my landlord (I think–I came back from class one day to find a plastic bag hanging from my doorknob with kaki inside), and a woman who I’ve only seen in passing because her house is situated on a slope overlooking the bus stop where I am 3 afternoons a week (though she went all the way up to her house and back down just to give me a bag of kaki).

Aimee, a longtime online friend–almost 9 years’ worth of on-and-off correspondence, in fact–just offered today, out of the blue, to mail me her extra winter and long-sleeve clothes that she no longer needs because she isn’t living in a frigid area anymore and she bought too much to begin with, even before finding out that we do in fact wear the same shirt size. And she’s offering to do it completely for free, asking only for Hello Kitty earrings or Japanese rocks (she studied geology) and pictures of the Yoshinogawa fault line.

I gave Terry back home a call tonight (well, two, because my modem cut off in the middle) and she’s definitely coming to Japan to visit at some point next year. She even has a backup lined up in case our friend Ryan can’t come–her friend Della, who I’ve met and who’s a total sweetheart. I love having this internet phone–I just hope the calls are as cheap as they’ve been marketed to be and that I won’t have a nasty surprise waiting for me (to balance out the pleasant surprise my cellphone bill will be, due to an utter lack of use and the upgrading of my plan).

I don’t know what I did to deserve such warmth and generosity in my life, but I just hope I keep doing it.

Good night, everyone. I love you all.

To my friends back home

Louise finally got her box of books and sheet music…or what’s left of it. She shipped this box before she left, and a month later than it should have arrived, only 3 pieces of music and 2 books finally made it, and the rest are gone. We only have limited access to sheet music stores over here, and some of her music and books are also out of print, but I told her to compile a list, with the hopes that you all could help pull some things together for her out of your collections or from other places. So if you could…that’d definitely be appreciated, since they were (next to her violin) her most valuable possessions.

And speaking of which…

Louise and me, at a 7-11 in Inawashiro (where we were making copies of each other’s music), the morning I left. The woman behind the counter totally blinked and stared when I asked her, in Japanese, if she could take a photo. It took the guy next to her prompting her with, “Shashin, shashin” (“photo, photo” in Japanese) before she accepted my camera. I took very few photos this weekend, but this one is my favorite. (Followed closely by the photos of the Bandai volcanic system I snapped from her kitchen window.)

In other news, I totally have internet access! The Yahoo!BB pack came in and works like a dream. Lindsay has to look into getting a proper wireless setup for her Mac, though, but I’m sure she’ll get it working with no problem. I guess now I can’t put off responding to that mountain of e-mails anymore, huh?

At Friday’s begnners eikaiwa, the students asked me what kinds of food I like and eat regularly, and when I told them I usually make sandwiches for lunch because they’re quick and easy, one of my (male) students made a comment that caught me off-guard–something like, “Wow, if you only eat sandwiches, how is it that you came to be so big?” and waved his hands in front of his chest. (The man next to him sort of shoved him and went, “Shitsurei!” or, “You’re being rude!” But it was all meant as a joke.) Er…yeah. That was startling, because that class is full of people who are sweet enough that I almost have started to see them as grandfatherly figures. But it’s sort of socially acceptable for men to make those kinds of jokes here–which is a definite form of culture shock.

But at the intermediate class, which I sort of botched up because I challenged the ladies a bit too much, one woman invited me to her house to join the other ladies (they’re all this one big group of friends) for dinner. So I went and met them at 5 PM, figuring I’d be there for an hour, and I ended up staying till 9:30. The ALTs in our area were meeting up last night as well, though I’d told them I probably couldn’t make it…and in retrospect, I ended up having a much better time chatting with these wonderful Japanese women than I probably would have if I’d met up with the other ALTs that night. (And I’m not just saying that because several of them regularly read this journal!) I was just in need of some sit-down-and-really-talk time, and it helped that they’re almost motherly figures, since they have children my age or a little older, and the way they’ve made sure to take care of me and make sure I was well-fed and taken care of served to push that even more.

We had temakizushi, which I’d never made before (sushi that you hand-wrap, and it was fresh and absolutely delicious–they had a ton of veggie selections, and I even tried natto, these super-sticky and awful-looking fermented soybeans, and actually liked it…similarly, they tried veggie-only temakizushi for probably the first time, and really liked it as well), and everyone had some beer (they made sure to give me the biggest glass), and we just talked and talked and talked.

The biggest revelation of the night: the nearby Yoshinogawa (I’d type “River,” but that’s redundant because kawa/gawa means “river”) runs over the top of an active fault line. The riverbed is a freaking fault line! The geology geek in me got really excited at hearing that…well, excited, and then worried, because we apparently haven’t had any earthquakes here lately, so there’s pressure building up that has to give at some point…

I left with a big bushel of fresh basil, a bunch of chives, and three eggplants, all from Terumi-san’s garden. The next morning my apartment smelled of fresh basil…because I stupidly forgot to stick the basil in the fridge the night before, but it was still a wonderful scent that reminded me of a wonderful evening.

I’ve been asked to write more about my kids in my classes (hi, Michelle!)…I will in the next entry, and maybe I’ll post photos of my classes soon, since I’m doing Halloween parties in nearly all of them this week and will definitely be bringing my camera. I’m finally beginning to flesh out a few personalities in each of my classes. If you have any other requests for things you’d like me to address here, please e-mail or IM me, or just comment on this entry.