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My Web Site -- Japan


San Francisco Condom by Masami Teraoka

Back to the Beginning · About Me · Resume
2001 Aug - Dec
2002 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
2003 Feb Mar Apr
(Click on images for larger view)
29th (American Invasion)
A group of American teachers arrived here a few days ago. It was so amusing for me to watch them express astonishment and wonder and the very same things that astonished me when I first arrived here, back before I got used to it all. They were full of praise for the Japanese school system. They marvelled at the kids during clean up time, taking photos and home vidoes of them as they swept floors and wiped windows. I was just as amused at this as the Japanese students were.

Today I went to Chine Sho, which was bizarre in a fun way, as usual. The kids cooked hot dogs this time. They set up tables in the gym with bunsen burner-like cookers on them. All the ingredients and utensils necessary for hot dog making were laid out meticulously beside the cookers: buns, weenies, chopsticks, frying pan, oil, ketchup, mustard, and a large knife for cutting the buns open. Everyone donned aprons and assumed their positions around the tables to commence the hot dog making. The kids had previously prepared a poster detailing the fine art of hot dog making, complete with diagrams and illustrations, and they displayed this for the whole group to see. Two little girls guided the whole group through the process by reciting the instructions over a microphone. I was asked to walk around and make sure that everyone was making their hot dogs in the correct fashion. One little boy was having a tough time cutting the bun in half with a knife that was about as long as his little arm. When I gave him a hand by cutting the buns open for him, he said to the little boy next to him, "Oh! She's really good at it! It's because she's an American." They asked me questions about American hot dog eating habits. Did we eat hot dogs every day? What did we normally put on our hot dogs? They cut the completed hot dogs into sections so that everyone could have a taste. I stared in disbelief as a little boy used an 8-inch knife to slice up a hot dog with the expert precision of a seasoned chef. Finally, we ate our hot dog sections up with some mugicha (barley tea).

I took the bus back into town, passing through all the small village hamlets with lush, forest-covered hills on one side and the vast, tropical sea on the other. One thing that I have realized as a result of these Americans coming to visit is that I have been taking this place for granted, big time. Someone slap me if I ever start to do that again.

20th (Surprise!)
I thought I only had to teach 6th period at an elementary school today. Figuring I didn't have to do much of anything today, I just threw on the clothes lying nearest my futon, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and headed into the office. As I was lazing about drinking my first cup of coffee and composing an email to a friend, the school calls. I was supposed to be there to teach 1st period, they said. But not only that, I was supposed to teach 2nd, 3rd, and 4th period as well, in addition to the 6th period I already knew I was teaching. Whoops! What I thought was going to be a nice lazy day quickly turned into anything but. I hate when that happens!

The other day, I scanned in the photos from our trip to Korea using a scanner here in the office. The scanner's apparently not exactly top of the line and so the quality's pretty crappy, but I figured I'd put 'em up anyway:


Koreans in Jeonju watch the U.S. vs Korea match on a big screen TV which is out of view in this pic.
 
Anthony and his friend Tom are asked to join in the cheering for with the Koreans. Anthony's craning around to see the game on the big screen TV.
 
The World Cup Stadium in Jeonju.

Me and the Stadium.
 
The Portuguese score their first of 4 goals. The Polish goal keeper's obviously not happy.
19th (The Hump)
It's Wednesday, the day that my former SHSU coworkers and I used to refer to as "the hump". Oh, but that was long ago, back when it was possible have some rapport with the people I worked with. I've decided to work my way through the entire collection of Ally McBeal tapes at the Tsutaya (in Japanese, Ari Mai Rahbu--Ally, My Love). I'm not going to touch Friends, though. That would be going entirely too far. Anyway, watching Ally McBeal has sort of made me nostalgic for office gossip and all that other stuff that happens when you actually are able to communicate freely with the people working around you. Oh, the things you take for granted.

I'm reading this great book at the moment that attempts to explain Japanese behavior and I'm finding it extremely useful. I was thinking last night that I have lived in this country for almost a year now and still feel totally baffled by the culture most of the time. I think the Japanese are more baffled by us than we are by them. I was talking to my Japanese friend and fellow English teacher Narumi today, telling her that I wanted to climb Mt. Fuji and that I wanted to go to Borneo, etc. She and another teacher looked at each other with stunned expressions, and said, "Ii naaa" ("It must be nice"). Later on, Narumi said to me, "Foreigners travel so easily!" The Japanese seem to be both envious and reproachful of our freedom. As I sit here writing this, a group of male office workers are circling a table, collating huge stacks of paper. They work together silently, efficiently, ... another office worker joins the circle, and another. And I sit here outside the circle, just watching. I feel like I'm watching an ant farm. That pretty well sums up my life here so far, just observing Japanese society, not really participating. Not that I have a problem with that. I wouldn't want to belong to a society like this one. I love my freedom and independence too much. It's a really strange and interesting experience to just sit and be the spectator. Sometimes, though, I miss being able to participate fully in society. So I satisfy that need vicariously through Ally McBeal. It works for me.

I finally got the photos digitized from my day as a Japanese postal worker. They're worth a look.

Also, Ellen Wan and Suzanne's sister Denise came for a visit around Golden Week time back in April. We gave them the whirlwind tour of Amami. Here are some photos from their visits.

Me, Suzanne, and Suzanne's sister Denise stand inside an old Amami style house.

Adam, Ellen, and Adrian sitting inside "Recto", a restaurant in Koniya.

Ellen and I all suited up for canoeing down the mangrove forest.

Ellen and I inside the mangrove forest.

Adam and I at Honohoshi. Adam's wearing his favorite hateful t-shirt.

Adam's, my, and Ellen's silhouettes against the sea at Honohoshi. We were standing in a cave and there was no flash. Adam's silhouette reminds me of Bart Simpson here.

13th (Korea)
Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I've been busy, but mostly I've been very lazy.

Just got back a couple of days ago from a trip to South Korea. Anthony, Anthony's friend Tom, Tom's friend Steve, and I all went to Jeonju, South Korea to watch a World Cup match. Before that, we spent a couple of days in Seoul. The day before the trip, I bought a beautiful new keitai (cell phone), my first ever since I've lived here in Japan. After buying it, I immediately went out and bought a cute little strap for it. The next day, on the plane en route to Fukuoka, I lost it. None of you who know me well will be surprised at that in the least. I really miss the phone, though. I loved all its little buttons, the snapping sound it made when i flipped it up, all the colorful background themes. Now it's gone, probably forever. I find myself sadly reminiscing about the 24 hours I spent with that phone. Hopefully, though, I'll be getting another one very soon.

Korea was good. I almost didn't want to come back to Japan. The atmosphere there was much more relaxed and casual, I felt. The Korean people were very different. They even seemed to hold themselves differently. Their entire demeanor seemed more relaxed. The women wore their hair long and natural, which was very becoming, I thought. There was none of the dyeing and shredding that is so prevalent among Japanese women. We went out to eat and the waitress put these long metal sticks in front of us. It took me a moment to figure out that they were meant to be chopsticks. They were much longer than the chopsticks we normally use here in Japan and they were made entirely of metal, which made it difficult to pick up lots of stuff, especially the dukey-flavored jello concoction they put in front of us. We ordered a yakiniku-type thing off the menu and the waitress brought our meat over to us and cut it into strips with scissors, laid it on the grill. Aside from the meat, I couldn't identify most of the stuff I ate that night, but most of it was really spicy.

We went down to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium to watch the Portugal vs. Poland match. I had to buy a ticket at the stadium, which turned out to be really easy. There were hundreds of empty seats at the stadium, but I had the good fortune to be seated next to the most annoying person in the whole place. At first I thought he was just a really friendly Korean man. I thought it was sort of amusing when he kept talking about "the United Station of America". While the players were out practicing on the field, he was right in my face, speaking in unintelligible, heavily accented English and leaping up out of his seat every few moments, spreading his arms and yelling, "Enjoy!". Everyone around seemed to be looking at me with looks of pity and apprehension. After a while, they got up and moved away (smart move). But I was trying to be polite. His friend bought me a beer, but spilled half of it on my leg. I drank the beer and thought, "OK, when the opening ceremony starts, he'll shut up", but he didn't. Then I thought, "OK, after kickoff, he'll shut up", but yet again I was wrong. Finally, I could take no more. I went up to collect the guys and we all ended up sitting on the front row of the stadium, which was good.

Since I've been back, I've been showing off my ticket to awe-stricken and envious Japanese teachers and students. I'm careful not to gloat too much, though. What I did, which was to take vacation for the sole purpose of personal enjoyment, is very much looked down upon here in Japan. Yeah, you may get annual vacation, but that doesn't mean that you actually use it! I mean, the gall! Most Japanese people only use their vacation days if they're sick, even though they have sick days, but they don't actually use sick leave as it's seen as extremely impolite. I explain to my colleagues about how we do it in the West, and they nod their heads sympathetically and say they understand, but somehow I still feel like a heinous, selfish bitch when I take vacation. Just another one of those strange little things about living in Japan.