Archive for December, 2006

Kerosene Xmas

Friday, December 22nd, 2006 by Chris

Kerosene Xmas, originally uploaded by chrissam42.

We’re leaving for Tokyo tonight on our way to Indonesia tomorrow. We’ll leave you with this lovely X’mas (that’s how they spell it here) scene from our living room.

Santa’s NOT from Finland!

Thursday, December 14th, 2006 by Steph

So I bit the bullet today and wore a damn mask to work. It seems a bit counter-productive as a foreign language teacher to go to class with my mouth covered, but whatever. Coming from America, I feel absolutely ridiculous wearing a mask out in public. And then there’s the smelling your own breath all day aspect. Which becomes more of an issue after lunch… mmm. Miso and milk. But I had no choice, the chalk dust was killing me.

Today’s junior high classes were especially pleasant. I hadn’t particularly been looking forward to Christmas lessons, as I kind of secretly hate carols (unless they’re old ones) and am not a particularly festive holiday person. But today was awesomely fun.

First of all, I got to be Santa, thanks to a red coat and hat I found in my closet. Thanks, anonymous predecessor! I didn’t have a beard, but the mask made for a nice stand-in. My Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) asked me to bring in a True/False Christmas quiz. I had already quizzed some other students at another school, so I knew about some of the common misconceptions re: Christmas in America. So I got to dispel some myths: Not everyone in America celebrates Christmas. No, we don’t eat Christmas Cake, per se, not with strawberries and whipped cream, like everyone here does. Nor do we tend to consume massive quantities of fried chicken on Christmas Eve. I don’t care what you say, Santa’s not from Finland. And these little dudes named “elves” help him out with the presents. That freaked everyone out. “Like Snow White and the 7 Elves…?” Um… kinda. Close enough.

After which, the kids sat around making cards. I even was the proud recipient of one, which incorporated newly introduced concepts such as the 3-tiered snowman (here’s the Japanese version for contrast) and Santa eating cookies with milk.

ほほほ.

Doldrums

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006 by Steph

Ok, so I haven’t written for awhile, but that’s because absolutely nothing is interesting is going on. I could tell you that one of my co-workers is pregnant and is leaving her job in March. Or that we’ve been invited to two weddings, one of which was announced on 11/22, because the day, when pronounced, sounds like “a good day for joining together”. Or that driving is still relatively easy, as the street lines have yet to be buried in snow.

Oh yeah, and somehow I got roped into being someone’s Spanish tutor. What the??? I took 4 years of high school Spanish 15 years ago. I think the best I can do at this point is teach her how to order beer. If anyone out there has access to a first year of Spanish book, I would love to have it.

But the real reason I’ve been electronically absent is that I’ve been sick for three weeks and couldn’t be bothered. I’m even wearing the mask at work and everything. I guess this is an occupational hazard, as my unofficial job duties include shaking hands with every kid in town under 10 years old, while prompting them to say, “Nice to meet you”. I washed my hands after every elementary class, I swear. Cooties are just unavoidable.

I went to the doctor to get meds after my insistent cough forced my fellow teachers to send me home for 3 days in a row. 45 pills. That’s how many I have to take in the next 5 days. One for coughing, one for fever, another for sniffling. I’m actually on my second batch of pills, as I went through the last set without much of an impact. Luckily my doctor is also the father of one of my high school students, and he gives me cold remedies for free! Yet another benefit of teaching at 16 different schools in Noshiro.

We’ve been preparing for our upcoming trip to Indonesia. It was going to be an epic journey across Western and Central Java, then skipping onward to Bali to visit 3 sets of friends in 12 days; however, the holidays have conspired and plans seem to be getting more and more complicated. We may have to skip Bali altogether.

We had some difficulties plying travel medication from the central hospital; apparently the Japanese medical system isn’t a big advocate of preventative medicine (ie. go get malaria and *then* come talk to me). However, we are very lucky to have Worried Japanese Mom, Kazue on our side. Chris has been tutoring Kazue in English, and she, in turn, has offered her services as Translator in Time of Need. When she heard that the doctor dismissed our requests for pills/vaccines, she called to complain. When they said they didn’t even know what type of medicine to order, she called Tokyo to find out. So, yes, now we have all of our meds thanks to Kazue the Insistent!

As a random side note, we found that the words “valium” and “barium” sound the same to Japanese ears, as there are some issues with distinguishing v/b and l/r from each other. Not two substances you want to confuse.

Ok, so the social landscape hasn’t been completely barren. There have been little get-togethers here and there. We went to Akita last weekend, which qualifies as a Grand Day Out. It’s funny what counts as adventure, when you live in the sticks; you pay for a $20 round trip train ticket to go to the Big City so you can buy and eat tasty food, ie. Starbucks and wheat bread. Maybe you see a little art and flower arranging on the side, and call it a day.

Last Friday was our monthly neighborhood meeting, for which we made tacos. We were also asked to bring along our local ALT friends. Which was fun and all, but really, how many times could you guys want to see pictures of the same old guys in the same little room? At least we doubled the females in attendance, from 1 to 2 with the addition of Claire, a British ALT in Noshiro. We were also treated to a rather nice rendition of Obon dance, performed by grand-master Uchida-san. He spontaneously performed this dance for us at a meeting way back in August, and we asked for an encore for the new folks we brought along.

Things promise to be pretty low key for the rest of the year. Check back in 2007 for Tales of Great Adventure.