Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I Have Returned

So, now I have internet. Yay! I'm happy. I have plenty of free time at my new job. I work at 5 different schools, so sometimes I have more free time than others. But most of the time I teach a few hours during the day, and the rest of it is spent during class hours writing a diary or studying kanji. I'm up to 65 characters, although I don't know them perfectly. Each character can have different ways of pronouncing it, ranging from one way (I've only seen 2 or 3 like that so far) to 4 or 5. Two is usually more common, but it still can be embarrassing when you read somebody's last name the wrong way. Hopefully I'll get better with time.

So I'm back at Muraoka JHS, the school I went to on my first week. It's also my favorite school for commuting, as it's near Fujisawa station, which means a short walk instead of transferring and going through hassles. I'm a little under the weather from too much partying this weekend.

On Saturday I went to Harajuku in Tokyo for a Thai festival. I got there a bit early, so I decided to wander a bit. The Harajuku area is famous in Japan as a place where the young people hang out, all dressed up in the freakiest clothing possible. My friend has a photo of one girl in a Nazi SS uniform. I didn't see anything too weird, but the press of shops spilling out into streets and crowds mingling gave me that too-close-for-comfort feeling that is Tokyo. About 300 meters away is Meiji Shrine, a calm, ancient shrine that has stook in Tokyo for ages. It's torii gate is new, but it's made of 1000 year-old trees. So in the space of 30 minutes I saw the living paradox that is Japan: old and new, funky plastic dresses and spike heels living in harmony with red and white miko (shrine maidens) and nature worship.

The funniest part in Meiji was watching the weddings. Japan is a crowded country, so they have to economize space and time in popular places like Meiji. One couple would finish exchanging vows and the procession of priests and miko, followed by bride and groom, would head out around the courtyard, followed by no less than 4 guys with video cameras getting in each other's way. Even the New Japan has forced its way into the old.

In early afternoon I met up with my friend Elaine and part of the crew that was going to the festival. They all turned out to be Interac teachers, and all but one were American, which was the most Americans I've been around at one time since leaving home. The food was fantastic, I gorged myself on green curry and rice, and the people, despite my usual dislike of Americans abroad (I think many of them are rather brash and arrogant), turned out to be a very friendly and intelligent group. All but Elaine were recent arrivals, and a few I talked to had been placed out in the countryside, in very small towns. I feel like my experience here, while different from back home, is not the extreme, at least not like some I've heard or read about. These people I met were living in towns of 11,000 people, where they were the only foreigners and everyone knew their name. Nowhere close to my (comparatively) foreigner-infested Hiratsuka. I'll bet they learn Japanese quickly.

This weekend has hardened my resolve to spend my summer vacation either in Thailand or Vietnam. It just involves buckling down and not really going out all the time, a hard prospect, but I think I can pull it off. I've decided I lack discipline, I'm all too easily enticed out by friends and myself. Discipline is something I need to try and instill in myself. I've missed the last two weeks of kendo practice, which is bad. I want to learn, but after work I'm usually so wiped out mentally that doing anything physical seems to be too much. Or maybe it's just my lethargy playing games with me.

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