The week in review

It’s been a while–sorry about that. Life’s been rather eventful this past week.

Friday through Sunday was our English Camp down in Anan, at the YMCA there…the location was gorgeous. It was right on the coast, which totally lifted my spirits because the coastline is still such a new and marvelous thing for me to see. The camp itself went pretty well–I really enjoyed getting to hang out with the first-years and put names to faces after all these weeks of approving random people. There were some negatives…not enough water (only lukewarm tea, because Japanese people honestly don’t drink water–just coffee, tea, and sports drinks, pretty much), some miscommunication and a general lack of knowing what was going on (I felt like I was 2 steps behind several of the other senpais the entire weekend, because I had to miss the one major planning meeting since it meant I’d have had to miss at least two classes, and because I assumed there’d be copies of the hour-by-hour schedule available like there was last year). There were also some moments that were not so great on a personal level, but I won’t get into that. Kirsten and I had a cool group of ALTs and an equally cool group of kids, and we played a bunch of totally successful games and threw together a cute little skit based on a Japanese folk tale that managed to involve Harry Potter, samurai, and a queen.

Sunday brought our participation in Awa Odori in Tokushima. Awa is the ancient name of Tokushima, and Odori means “dance.” (This is the obligatory explanation that every website and every blogger gets into when mentioning Awa Odori, so sorry if you’ve read this already.) It originated in the 16th century, ironically from a bunch of drunkards who made this dance up, and it’s known as the Fool’s Dance–its motto is, “You’re a fool if you dance and a fool if you don’t, so why not dance?”

The new ALTs were automatically signed up to dance with Arasowaren, the foreiger dancing group in Tokushima City, and returning ALTs could sign up to dance as well. I had so much more fun this year than I did last year–instead of the happi coat, I wore the traditional women’s costume, though it actually fell way too short on me (above the top of my tabi socks), but I didn’t even realize it until after I saw the photos I asked people to take of me, so no self-consciousness there. The dress was like a variation of a kimono, with the really tight obi (I was worried I wouldn’t be able to breathe properly, but I got used to it), the straw kasa hat, and the wooden geta slippers. One of my slippers chipped near the beginning, and my hat would not stay on my head despite nearly a dozen last-minute adjustments…but it all worked out well in the end, and I had such a blast dancing! The feeling of dancing with such a massive group in the company of friends and with spectators cheering you around from packed stands is like no other. The city was packed, and it felt truly transformed into a lively, energetic place…we took the same route around the dancing venues that we did last year, and I recognized where all we went this time. I hope I can do it again next year, if I have time before grad school starts.

Monday, yesterday, and today were Awa Odori here in Ikeda. Just Ashley and I went out Monday, Brian (and, briefly, Andrew and his friends) joined us yesterday, and nearly everyone out west (Brian, Julie, Jordan, Saori, Sally, Nate and his dad, and Sean) came out tonight. The town was completely transformed–the sleepy feel was gone, and it was just alive and kicking in a way that it just never is at any other time. Granted, Ikeda’s Awa Odori is far smaller than the city’s, with just 30 or so dancing groups instead of over 900, but this feels far more personal and less stadium-like. A ton of my students were dancing, and nearly the whole town was out, as well as other regional groups–even the younger (for this town, anyway) guy from the ¥100 store came up and shook my hand.

And now…it’s over. There was so much anticipation, all the weeks and months of hearing the Awa Odori rens practicing in the afternoons, and now that’s it until next summer. I’ve finally learned how to dance it, at least–I wouldn’t mind more practice to get it perfect.

I spent three solid hours chatting with my boss at work today–it wasn’t intentional, but it just sort of ended up that way. She welcomed the distraction, in part because she went straight from the BOE to help at Awa Odori, and she actually may still be working on cleaning up right now! She’s obviously taking tomorrow off to rest up. I made sure to stop by and see her tonight, at least briefly. (I then got drenched from the thundershower we were having…we have a typhoon apparently moving in at the tail end of this week.)

Anyway, though we talked about a ton of things (including but not limited to the car, etymology and linguistics but particularly the etymology of Portuguese and other Latin-derived languages, and the British terror plot last week), part of what we talked about was my proposed Kyushu volcano tour next month–I brought my copy of Lonely Planet Japan to work and spent an hour going through it, jotting down notes, and formulating a plan. This trip is going to be extremely, extremely ambitious…and not only will it eat up my two days of daikyuu (vacation you receive in compensation for working outside of working hours–my two days at English Camp earned me two extra days of vacation), but I may have to dig into my nenkyuu for a day as well. Right now, I’m hoping to head west to Matsuyama and catch the ferry to Beppu, and make a circular trip from there, hitting up Aso-san and its five major peaks, Kirishima National Park on the northern Kagoshima border (a 15-km hike which lets you scope out seven volcanos–SEVEN!), Sakurajima, and the Unzen area, and also visiting Nagasaki. It’s a lot of traveling, but it’s also a lot of walking. It’ll be my first time attempting something of this scale completely on my own–I’m hoping to run into Michelle in Kagoshima-shi when I’m there, and hopefully crash at her place at least one night (and rely on Tatami Timeshare for most, if not all, of my overnight accommodation for the weekend), but besides that, it’ll be all me.

I’m getting pretty sleepy, so I’ll sign off here. If I didn’t specify anything or made any egregious errors, please let me know. Good night!

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