Today- I woke up around seven today, despite it being saturday, because my apartment building had its monthly "weeding" session. Every month all the men in the apartment don coveralls, weed-whackers and rakes to combat the overgrown grass that regerates every 30 days. So i spent the morning raking cut grass into piles and throwing it into a heap in one corner of the Jutaku parking lot. It was actually kind of fun to have a manly bonding experience with the few other residents of my (mostly abandoned) building. I was silly and wore short sleeves, so i am now plagued by cuts from rough grass and bug bites.
Around ten i was picked up to go to festival in Haki (even more rural than amagi by about five-fold) with Mizuki san, the 61 y/o super energetic and active office lady who is like my best friend at school. The festival was really cool; with a focus on organic farming and eco-friendly living. They had an electric car by mitsubishi on display and several stalls not selling, but simply informing passersby of products they could by for their homes like recycled rubber garden substrate and super-efficient LED light fixtures. There was also an assortment of farm-fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, and homemade ceramic-ware (i stocked up on these).
Mizuki san was working the ticket booth, so i spent most of my time wandering around with my camera like the creepy foreigner i am, and hanging out with kids and chatting to people in very very bad japanese. I can pretty much get by enough just to say my basic stats like "i am ....amagi. I am an english teacher at Asakura High school. My home is in Chicago in America. What is your name? Where do you live?" stuff like that, and of course the usual array of "thank you" "thank you very much" thank you very very much" "Are you okay?" "it's okay" "it's delicious" and other conversation smoothers.. It's really exciting because even though my japanese is by NO means developed and i have little to no grasp of grammar, my key phrase use is getting smoothe enough that people have been telling me i "speak japanese well" for the first time. It's important to note that this doesnt mean they think i have any talent, but recognize that i have made an effort. Before i was making an effort and it wasn't even noticable. NOW THATS WHAT I CALL PROGRESS!
Mizuki san sang karaoke on the stage and there were lots of other singing and dancing events. I spent most of my time hanging out with Mizuki san's 11 y/o grand daughter and her two friends. there was one area that had a giant pool with fish swimming around in it, and kids would jump in and try to catch the fish with their hands. If they got one, the "ride" operator would bag it up for them to take home, where, i guess they would be cooked cause those fish were way dead by they time they made it to the too-small bag. I shot some really great photos of that whole event. little kids holding up live fish victoriously.
Around 3:30, Mizuki san dropped me off at the Jutaku after a ride home talking about the names of fruits in english and japanese with her granddaughter Ana. I found a praying mantis hanging out on my bike, so i ran upstairs to my room and brought down a blender. I caught the mantid in the blender where it's now sitting in my kitchen. Later i will buy a critter keeper and start catching insects to feed it. Who can say "first pet"?? yay! i hope it's the first of many exotic pets from the local ecosystem. the cool thing about living in the "inaka" is that the bugs are huge! (ok that is mostly scary, but somewhat cool). Only a few of them are extremely poisonous. the others are just interesting to see. there are giant wasps that can apparently eat birds and hand-sized spiders, and 6" long centipedes that can send you to the hospital with a single bite. Anyway, i'm happy with my mantis friend.
Now i am on my way downtown to meet some other ALTs, Chris, Laura, Patrick and Laura's b-f walter. We are having thai food for dinner and tomorrow some of us are going to a metal show downtown too. I am hoping to convince some of them to come hang out at my apartment tonight in Amagi to play wii and hang out. thatll more likely happen tomorrow or monday though.
Moving on backwards, Last night was another celebration with my friends at OISCA. These are the international kids that i described in an earlier post-- my Captain Planet friends. OISCA is a live-abroad scholarship program that has participants all over the world learning agriultural techniques. I had been exchanging emails with Mahmood from Pakistan regarding our second meetup:
good to hear from you again.
I would like to join you at the center someday soon. I will ask Mizuki san when her next trip will be. Perhaps i can go with her.
Mike, United States.
My dear .i thank u forget us ,May be u r busy.how r u .pls tell me.
Of course i have not forgotten about you! Since we met two weeks ago, I have been somewhat busy, and I know that you are only free on Sundays. Unfortunately my last few sundays have been occupied by my school's Sports Festival, and I have not been free. This weekend I will be in Kumamoto Prefecture, but perhaps next Sunday we can do something.
Are there any events i can attend?
I have been asking Mizuki san about OISCA events. She said that there was going to be an OISCA event on Friday, September 9, but today she told me she cannot attend. Can you give me information about what is happening on Sept. 9? Maybe I can join you.Mike
No problem! Just let me know when and where an OISCA event will be happening in the future, and I will do my best to attend.
perhaps i will see you at the party! i will try to ask mizuki san for details.
I found the event with only minor difficulty and it was even more PBS Special than the first celebration, and equally fun. OISCA was in amagi for some training which culminated in the celebratory dinner. They are halfway through their one year stay in Japan. This time everyone was wearing traditional clothes representative of their culture. between chinese silk dresses, embroidered pakistani vests and flourescent printed shirts from fiji, it was unreal. In case the clothes werent enough, after dinner they all got on stage and sang together. one boy from the phillipines played accompaniment on the guitar while everyone else swayed arm in arm and sang in Japanese. Quite the "we are the world" moment. I loved it. Afterwards there was japanese dancing with people in creepy masks and more back patting and hand shaking
I was talking to one of the japanese girls there, having the same conversation to be had with everyone else (I teach english at asakura koukou, I havent been studying japanese very long. it's difficult) and outta the blue she asked me for my number! seriously, flirting is so easy here. even accidentally. I cant even begin to imagine what itll be like once i know even semi-decent Japanese. My friend pat is constantly chatting up Japanese girls and has a fair bit of success even in his stained "patrick star" spongebob tshirt and cargo shorts. it's like for foreigners there are no standards. we just look foreign, and some people are inherantly drawn to that. somewhat unfortunate in the long-run perhaps, but most definitely exploitable
well this is getting long so i'll cap it off here. you can see the photos on flickr (click the link on the right) and please remind me to add some of the extra successful images later. when i have a private life again. Being an English teacher in the inaka really is like being a public servant. they told us this during orientation but only now can i really understand it. It's a big honor to be such a "representative" but at the same time, it's difficult and exhausting.
keeping up the pace! signing out.