Hectic weekend

Friday: caroling.
Saturday: orphanage.
Sunday: shopping.

Brevity just isn’t my thing, though that really does sum it up. I get this itch, in my hands and somewhere around my liver or stomach, that makes me want to add just one more detail just so I can expound well enough that people will have more of an understanding of the situation…and then another, and another, and another. You get the idea. That’s where all these long posts come from–I just can’t shut myself up.

Thursday night, after a couple hours of insane phone tag to allow for some last-minute rearranging of the driving situation, we met up for dinner and carpooled to the Iya Valley, to Nate’s house, to rehearse and prepare for a day of caroling starting in Iya and moving west, north, and east again to hit all 9 of our junior highs and 1 special-needs school. We sang the worst renditions of both Jingle Bells and White Christmas ever heard in human history while practicing…I was laughing so hard I was crying (but it’s okay, because everyone else was laughing, too).

We started bright and early on Friday. The day ended up being much warmer than we expected–yay, global warming. I’ve spent very little time in the Iya Valley–I figured, eh, I have plenty of mountains as it is, and my drive to my Monday elementary school is really breathtakingly beautiful; what more do I need? I figured wrong; it was really gorgeous. It’s also pretty well-marked with signs, and the roads aren’t nearly as intimidating as they seemed last year.

My kids had learned some of the words to “Happy XMas (War Is Over),” which was my JTE’s special request, and the combination of our singing (and Chalice playing my violin!) along with the students was a truly special thing. I think we had one of our better performances there, and of course I’m biased, but I think my kids were among the most genki/enthusiastic we sang for that day. It also really warmed me to see that quite a few of my teachers were grinning along as we sang, and several were singing along as well, and the music teacher and I ended up conducting everybody in unison on “Happy XMas.”

It was a really good day. With the exception of quite a bit of backseat driving from one of my passengers, I had a really good time, and I think we all did, too. For the most part, we have a really good, solid crowd out west; I just wish we actually hung out as a group more often, the way we used to last year. Everyone has their own lives and obligations this time around, though.

Yesterday was the annual orphanage visit–I really can’t think of much to say. I enjoyed it, and more importantly, the kids enjoyed it (Jordan made an excellent Santa)…it wasn’t the life-changing experience I thought it had the potential to be, but I don’t think it quite clicked for me that these kids were actually orphans, without parents or in difficult familial situations that require them to be away from their parents some or all of the time…not until afterwards, anyway. There was one young boy who had very obvious anger management issues, and was pretty aggressive and antisocial at times…I think some ALTs just weren’t really sure how to act around him. (I could say more, but we’re forbidden from posting any photos of the kids online, and I’m sure the same goes for writing about them as well. I’m not quite sure where to draw the line.)

Today I went shopping. I’m close enough to the trip now that I’ve thrown out a lot of my perishable food items that I know I won’t eat in the next couple of days before I leave, and I’m avoiding buying many groceries, so I went out for lunch to a local cafe that has a really, really good mountain mushroom pilaf, and the waitress ended up being Chinese, so we had a brief “gaijin solidarity” moment. I headed out to Kawanoe and got nearly all my shopping done, spending less than I thought I would, which is always nice…I got some strange looks for some of the stuff I bought, but I won’t say anything more, for fear that the people I bought stuff for are reading this.

I also bought my shink ticket back from Tokyo tonight; all I need at this point are tickets for the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra New Years concert (if it isn’t sold out or too expensive) and the Studio Ghibli Museum (but I already went about a year ago; should I go somewhere else instead? But it’s really freaking cool…) and my plans will be set. Oh yeah–and I have to pack. I’m taking so much freaking stuff home–I’d like to start taking home nonessentials but I don’t know what I can let go of just yet. Let’s see how much space I have left once my clothes and gifts are packed.

I’ve been coughing for the last couple of days–Andrew’s had a cough and has been sick for the last couple of months, and he was in my car for the entire day Friday, so I know I caught it from him, whatever it is. I really hope it isn’t his months-long deal and that Robitussin will cure it when I’m stateside.

My entries in here have been really slipping lately, and I apologize for that…I feel “obligated” to relay the details of what I’ve been up to, but why? Does it really matter that I’ve been shopping and that I bought train tickets? I’ve had several ideas for ideas to write about, as opposed to just events…I should dig into those one of these days. Lately, my nerves have been getting more and more frayed–prior to the orphanage visit, my lanyard broke and I spent nearly a half-hour searching for my keys, and it stressed me out a lot more than I expected it to. The stares and head-turns I get when shopping or walking down the street are really getting to me as well.

(However, there’s totally a nice side to standing out; when I was at the grocery store, a kid ran up to me and said hello, and that he recognized me from caroling on Friday–he was one of Jordan’s students! That made me smile. There’s also a not-so-nice side to standing out like that, though: when people wave at you who you don’t recognize. Over the last couple of weeks, a guy in his 30s/40s who works for NTT (I think?) has been waving at me as if he knows me, even tapping his horn as he drives by so he can give me a friendly wave, and no matter how hard I rack my brain, I have no clue who he is.)

Anyway…I’m hoping that my 2 weeks at home, surrounding myself with English speakers and possibly scholarly discussion, will help soothe my nerves and jumpstart my brains and writing ability. This trip’s coming at exactly the right time.

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