Thursday, January 28, 2010

January in Fukui - Boring reflections on life

Hey folks, how's it going?

In regards to the last post, Jonathan's lost bag was delivered to our house only 2 days after he arrived. Everything was safely inside. Thank you, Japanese customer service!

Jonathan and I are doing alright here. Nothing interesting going on so far this month. Last Friday, we went out to dinner with Asa and Grainne. We went to one of those conveyor belt sushi places in Obama, and it was a lot of fun. I hung out with Asa for a bit before dinner, then after we ate we walked to the grocery to buy ice cream (in January, I know), then we poceeded to eat it outside! We are truly the best and the brightest that the foreign world has to offer to Japan. After making quite a scene standing/sitting outside of the grocery talking and laughing loudly in English and rudely informal Japanese, we then went to sit in my car and continue shouting and laughing for another half and hour or so. Asa and I uncovered a plot by Grainne where Grainne aspired to keep her friends from meeting with each other, thereby keeping us dependent on her for social interaction. The tricksy Irish lass kept the minorities (Asa and Felioe) together, and then me, Jonathan, and Melissa together so that we wouldn't discover the pleasure of one another's company which would then lessen her value as a friend. But when confronted, Gra vehemently denied any and all schemes to keep us apart, which in turn increased our suspicion. If I can get ahold of some sort of mind-reading device or possibly secret journals or letters to a confidant, we can crack this whole scheme wide open. Tune in next week for more details on this sordid conspiracy.

In other news,we went to Kyoto last weekend and saw a few temples, including 鈴虫寺 (suzumushi dera) which is a temple famous for its crickets that chirp year-round. The guy (I think he was a monk or an apprentice monk who looked to be in his 20s or early 30s) who gave us the talk was really funny, but he spoke pretty fast so I don't know exactly what he was saying. I caught a lot of his jokes about how you can buy and charm and pray for something to make you happy, and he prays for a cute girlfriend. Another joke was about how since they have over 5,000 crickets, some of them are boud to die, and when they do the monks grind them up and use them as ingredients in the little sweets we were eating at the time. It was pretty funny since there were little black flecks in the candy, that you might mistake as bits of cricket. I find that I also laugh at Japanese comedians or funny commercials a lot more than my foreign friends do, and I can explain why certain things are funny to them.

I realized yesterday that most of my friends, even the ones who are married to Japanese people do not speak as much Japanese as I do. I mean I am sure there are plenty of vocab words or grammar points that my friends know that I don't, but my listening is pretty high in comparison. It is kind of shocking to realize that out of the 100 JETs in Fukui, there are probably only a handful who speak Japanese as well as or better than I do. After being at the low end of my 4th year Japanese class as far as ability goes, it is weird to suddenly be at the top. And when I met up with my former classmates in December, my speaking had actually gotten significantly better. The 4th year class only had 6-8 people in it, and when 4 of us got together I went from being at the bottom of the class to being at least equal to them (only as far as speaking is concerned - they are way better at reading and writing I bet) after only 3 months. I guess I am really lucky that I work at elementary schools and my supervisor does not speak English, because if I was in an environment where there was always someone to translate for me or casually converse with me in English I would not have improved at all. Don't get me wrong, I do actively seek out friends and acquaintances who speak English, but the fact is I am forced to speak and listen to Japanese 7-8 hours a day Monday thru Friday. And then on the weekends I use tons of Japanese when we go out to eat, run errands, pay utility bills, go sightseeing etc.

Well, that's all for now. Take care and watch out for the Irish. They're tricksy!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

p.s. I'm just kidding about the whole 'Irish are tricksy' thing. You should really watch out for the Chinese (like Asa), since in matters related to vengance and pranks, they are stealthy, swift, and sure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year! 明けまして おめでとう ございます!

Happy New Year one and all!
Laura and I are both safely back in Japan now after a whirlwind winter holiday season. We're so glad we got to be with our families for the holidays and catch up with some of you. The weather here is 37.4 degrees F with light rain. The weather in this region of Japan is really interesting. When I flew in to Nagoya, it was cool and raining. At my transfer in Maibara, it was snowing heavily. When I arrived in Tsuruga it was really really snowing. We're talking clumps of snowflakes the size of cotton balls. As you may have heard from Laura, Japan doesn't know how to treat winter weather. Every six inches along the road there is a sprinkler that gushes water onto the roadway. Now, not only are there 13 inches of snow, there are 6 inches of water through which to navigate. However, only 40 minutes south, there was no snow and only a moderate drizzle.
However, this crazy weather was a happy ending to Laura's and my travel experiences. Backtracking...many hours which cannot be enumerated, my flight to Detroit was delayed because of "hydraulic problems." Hmm, what on the plane does not use hydraulics? What on the plane uses hydraulics and its failure causes a fiery fireball of fire upon landing? (Answers at the end of this post!)
After waiting in line for a couple hours, it was finally my turn for rebooking. Luckily, the plane is ready for boarding at this time, and no, I didn't need to be rebooked. The woman made this assessment was very lucky in her judgment; my flight arrived in Detroit at 3:15, and my flight to Japan was scheduled for departure at 3:25. Luckily for me, the gates were directly opposite each other on the concourse.
Thirteen hours, 4 depressing/cheesy movies, 2 awful curries (btw do NOT go with the Vegetarian/Asian/Spicy option,) 1 arthritic Filipino woman, and zero restroom visits later, I was in Nagoya Airport.
Jisaboke means "jet-lag," but it literally translates to "time difference stupidity." This is accurate. It was several minutes after a woman told me that all the bags had come up before I started to comprehend the situation. They had lost one of my bags. I wandered about stupidly before a woman helped me fill out the appropriate forms. Here was my first taste of that Japanese politeness that I was missing in America. She asked me what was in my lost bag, and I was able to remember I had "clothes, cereal, and toiletries," but it wasn't until five hours later that I remembered "computer." I'm a little unnerved that my brain put Lucky Charms before my $500 laptop and very expensive accessory. The train rides were easy, and each stop brought me closer to Oi. At the time, I felt nothing except an ache to see Laura, but in retrospect, I'm really glad they lost one of my bags because then I didn't have to lug two heavy suitcases up and down the stairs of various train stations.
Well, despite lost bags, days, time, and minds Laura and I are home now. Laura has started her new schedule, but the kids don't come back until Friday, when they have their opening ceremony. I don't work until Tuesday, which gives me a lot of time to catch up on laundry and finish unpacking.
Laura and Jonathan

(Answers: 1)Everything 2)Landing gear. Improperly stowed carry on baggage, as well as seat backs and tray tables not returned to their full and upright positions are not acceptable answers, but will count for half credit.)