Thursday, March 23, 2006

Let the vacation begin!

I've been on vacation for nearly a week now. Well, I've had a few private lessons throughout the week, as well as some meetings and contract re-signing on Monday, but this afternoon my friends Aaron and Molly will arrive, and I'm excited. I'm really prepared to head out and have some fun. I'll pick them up at the airport and then head back to Tokyo and we'll stay there for 3 days to do some sightseeing. So I'll be reachable only by my cell email, which some of you may have. Hopefully when we get back I'll have some time to blog about what we did and perhaps post some photos. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What I did on Spring Break

Well, I'm 2 days into my vacation, and I'm getting sick from not sleeping. Going out drinking doesn't help. Neither does sitting here writing after midnight when I told myself I'd go to bed two hours ago. Anyway, I've finished titling and tagging my photos for the past three months. So if you want to see them in context, have a look-see. I'm off to bed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Links to satisfy your cravings

The problem with a blog is that you have to find time to write about the things you do. If you get too much of a backlog, you feel like you're rushing through things that you don't remember as well. If all you do is blog, then you haven't done anything interesting enough to blog about.

Bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, bloggit, blogg, blog.....AAAAAHHHHH!

By the way, did you know the Pope has a comic?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Graduation Ceremony

So we're now approaching the end of the fiscal and academic year in Japan. I'm in my last week of school. As of Friday, I will finish my contract. Since I haven't signed a new one for next year, I'm a bit nervous as to my future. The company says they want to sign a new contract with me, but my instinct says don't count your chicks before they hatch. Well, Friday night is the end-of-contract party, so I hope they break it to me beforehand, so I don't waste money going to dinner with them. But seriously, I'm sure things'll sort themselves out.

I've gotten over my sinus problems. The medicine I took worked wonders. I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep, which is why I skipped the gym tonight, but between writing this post and uploading photos to Flickr, I'm falling behind again as I write. The writing has to be done though, otherwise it just builds up. So all of my photos since I returned from the US have been posted, so check those out. Just scroll down and click on the big ad on the right.

Last Friday was the graduation ceremony at one of the schools I work at. We all headed into the gymnasium for a commencement ceremony filled with speeches and bowing at all times. I sat with the teachers on one side at the front facing sideways, not at the stage. We faced the graduating students, who filed in to continuous applause. I thought my hands would go numb by the end, which they partially did. Or maybe that was the cold. There was no heating besides hundreds of warm bodies. On the opposite side of the gym, facing sideways like us, were a bunch of honchos from the board of education. After the arrival of the 3rd-years, the vice-principal got up and introduced the VIPS, each of whom stood and bowed at us, requiring us to return the bow, seated. Then came some more speeches and the handing out of the diplomas. As each student prepared to head up onto the stage, they bowed at us, and we sort of half-bowed back. There were more than 200 graduates that day. I think my hips still hurt. After some more songs and such, came speeches from the principal, vice-principal, and various student leaders.

One stereotype that we have of Japan is that you're supposed to hold in your emotions. Kids are permitted this, but once you get out of elementary school, I think society tries to effectively quash that. Guess it didn't work on these kids. I've never seen boys that age cry unless they broke a body part, but there were quite a few boys, and a ton of girls, just bawling. It was interesting because I noticed a few of them were the too-cool-for-school boys, ones that had reveled in taunting me in Japanese since I couldn't understand. Goes to show, at 15, they're still just kids.

There's a relationship called sempai and kohai. Basically, it means 'superior' and 'subordinate,' respectively, but Western minds have difficulty grasping it. I interpret it more as a type of adopted big brother/little brother type of relationship, which is usually formed between the students in a school club. The sempai mentors and protects the kohai, who in return lavishes respect on their superior. It's not always positive, as the sempai may spend more time teaching his subordinate how to make spitballs and disrupt class than how to get ahead in life. Typically westerners see it as easy for the sempai to take advantage of his poor subordinate, but that's not always the case. The kohai is free to up and abandon the sempai.

I mention this because after the ceremony, everyone mingled in the parking lot, saying goodbye to the 3rd-years. Especially packs of kohai, out looking to congratulate their sempai. Some of the 1st-years were in tears. I asked them why, and they showed me a clip-on tie. Evidently, receiving the clip-on tie from your sempai is a big deal, at least to 12-year olds. I ducked back indoors quickly since it was drizzling and cold. Just in time for my nice bento meal. I shelled out nearly $10 for a boxed lunch in which the most edible thing was the rice. These bento are made elsewhere and delivered, so any hot food has cooled and congealed. Yum. Nothing like cold fried chicken bits and a fish filet covered in a congealed, tasteless sauce. No wonder I've dropped 3 inches off my waist since I got here.

I'd meant to write more about last weekend, but I'll leave off here and pick it up (hopefully) tomorrow. Then you can learn all about the ramen museum.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The final push

Well, one of the pills actually was an antibiotic, so over the course of 5 days, I've steadily improved. Now the pills are all gone, and I'm mostly better. I've kinda leveled out, where I'm a bit sniffly and phlegmy still, but I look and feel a heck of a lot better than before. Hopefully it's just my body working things out, and it'll clear up this week. I don't normally get sick, and when I do it's usually just the sniffles and some rest and OJ gets me right again. But every now and then it hits me like a sledgehammer and I can't do anything but whine and complain about it.

I've started back to the gym, which after not going for over a week, has me feeling the pain, since I have to start getting in shape all over again. Beyond that, I've only got 2 weeks left of work until I'm through with my contract. I'm supposed to go sign on for another year sometime coming up, though I don't know when exactly. I'm always a bit anxious about that, I have this intense fear that something'll happen and I won't get it. I'm sure everything's fine, but until the contract's signed, I won't feel secure.

I'll have time off from the 17th until sometime in early April, during which time my friends Aaron and Molly are coming to visit. I'm psyched about it, and I've got lots of things we can see and do. Having friends visit is great, it gives me a good excuse to go out, blow a bunch of money travelling and do and see things that I always put off during the normal course of events. Plus, they're friends from home, and it's always good to have visitors. I just hope they like karaoke, cause we're gonna do a lot of it.