So I'm on my still-unexplained vacation. There was a blank on our schedule and they told us not to show up. Go figure. But then they decided to call us and try and persuade us to help out with training for some new people. Julian wasn't fast enough on turning the company down (I said I had plans every day, and they didn't push it; I think my contract actually requires me to be available when I have vacation), so he had to work Monday and Tuesday, helping our gaijin boss in Yokohama (which necessitated getting up really early).
Tomorrow (Wednesday) he and I leave for O-shima, the largest and closest of the 7 islands that start just outside Sagami Bay and stretch quite a ways south. It's an active volcano for an island, I think it erupted 20 years or so ago, hopefully it won't make a repeat performance while we're there. We got a really good deal on a package: roundtrip ferry from Atami (only 45 minutes away by train), 2 nights in a minshuku, or Japanese-style inn, with dinners and breakfasts for roughly $170/person. Well, it's not all that cheap, but considering we'd probably spend that much just boozing it up in Hiratsuka, it makes sense somehow.
Sunday I went to my most recent JHS bunkasai (cultural festival). It was a lot of fun. Various clubs had presentations set up, the health club had a variety of physical ability tests to do. The students made me do it, and were suitably impressed (think juggling-circus-bear impressed, not wow-he's-good impressed), considering I'm twice their age. The only thing I didn't do well at was the flexibility test, which I failed miserably. The special ed class did a tea ceremony presentation, which was fun to see. The kids there are just adorable, they love to wave and say hello, and if I interact with them at all it seems to make their day. Gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
So after it was all said and done, I met the teachers at an izakaya for a drinking party. It was fun watching them all get pissed up, though most of them were light drinkers. The vice principal seemed a bit wobbly but in high spirits. The principal maintained his required level of dignity, ducking out early saying he was feeling under the weather. That left me free to persuade all these 40-something teachers to go do print club. Do you know those photo booths in shopping malls? The ones you always think are for passport photos but when you try it out you end up with a heart-shaped frame around it that says "Best friends forever"? Well, it's a phenomenon here, and while usually it's junior high school girls, foreigners and drunk adults (especially drunk foreigners) get into it too. So we crammed about 8 usually staid Japanese educators into a booth for photos. I've now got some good photo blackmail. After that was some karaoke, where I tortured them with some Billy Joel and the Beatles, and they sang some traditional enka songs. It's always funny to see people who are normally so serious and uptight really cut loose. One of the teachers invited me to his house to meet his college-age daughter and help her with her English. I think he was pretty smashed, doubt he'll extend the offer again sober.