Monday, May 29, 2006

A Short Update

I just got back from the field day at my school. It should've been on Saturday, but got rained out. So guess what I did instead? I worked! We had classes on Saturday instead, and I had to go there in the rain to teach. It turned out to be not so bad. The teachers were a bit friendlier and talked to me more. Last week sort of drove me nuts. I had a long post I wrote at work about how I'm ignored by everyone at work, no one thinks I can speak any Japanese (despite my speaking to them in my --admittedly broken-- Japanese), and how I felt generally awful. But Saturday was a bit of a pick-me-up. Unfortunately, that means for a second week in a row, my days off are being split up. But it'll work out all right.

Yesterday (Sunday) I went to the yabusame (horseback archery) demonstration with my friend Miwa. It rained all night before, but stopped around 11am, so we went down to Miura Beach. We thought it'd take only an hour, but it turned out to be twice as long. We arrived at 2, an hour late, but they had just started the demonstration, and we got to see lots of shooting.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. They were shooting at targets about 2 meters away. Granted, they're shooting from a galloping horse, but I was expecting something a bit more grand. It must've been quite difficult, because not everyone could hit the main target that was eye-level with the riders, let alone the smaller targets only a foot above the ground. It only lasted until about 2:40, so we spent more time going there than we spent at the actual demonstration, but it was fun to see and got me out of the area I'm so used to being in.

Tomorrow I'm heading down to Yugawara, a well-known hot springs area with my friend Kaori to enjoy soaking in some hot water. Now it's off to the gym, where I've been absent for too long. Need to get back into shape.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Burnout, or something like it

These past several days have been a bit exhausting for me. The taikusai (field day) was pretty good. I took some photos, and will post them later. It was cancelled on Saturday because of rain, so we had it on Sunday. Yesterday (Monday), I started at a different school. They're practicing for their takusai, which means they want me to go to theirs this Saturday. The prospect of working from Sunday to Saturday isn't too appealing right now, and I'm trying to figure out how to get out of it. Not to mention I've been going to bed later than I should, and sleeping is getting more difficult due to the increasing humidity. All this has created a grumpy Jeremy lately. So tonight's dedicated to an early night, which I hope I can get.

Next weekend I hope will be fun. There's a festival in Miura city down the coast, and they have a yabusame (horseback archery) demonstration scheduled. It will be, that is, presuming it doesn't rain. That's all for now, catch you all later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Saturday will be my school’s undokai, or field day. That is, it will be if the weather holds. I’m actually hoping it doesn’t, and gets rescheduled to Sunday, since that means I can stay out later in Tokyo on Friday. I remember doing field day in my elementary school, and we had them also in middle school and high school at Zionsville. They were ok, but if we’d done events like these, it would’ve been much more exciting. They have the usual dashes and relays, but then there are some other ones that are much more exciting – and dangerous – than what I ever did. There are four colored teams – red, blue, green, and yellow. Each is comprised of a mix of 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-year students. There are team competitions within each grade, as well as competitions that use a mix of ages.

One event is a train of 2nd-year students, 7 or 8 long, their left legs tied together and the same on the right side, so they all have to move their legs in unison to go. Each color team has four sets, two boys and two girls, and they have to run a relay. It’s rather comical to watch, especially when the first one falls down and everyone behind him creates a huge pileup.

If that’s not daring enough, the 1st-year students have to do an event that would have American school board lawyers wringing their hands. There’s a bamboo pole, about 15 or 18 feet (2 or 2 1/2 meters) tall. It’s held straight up by four boys bracing its bottom, as well as four ropes tied to the top, pulled out and held down by three or four students. There are 3 flags about 2/3 of the way up. A team of three kids carry one of their lighter teammates up to the pole and this last one shinnies up and grabs a flag, slides down and races off on his/her “chariot” back to the starting line. This is repeated by 2 other sets of “horse and rider.” Once all the flags are down, they have to go back up and drop the flags in the top hole of the bamboo pole. The first team to do this is the winner.

The 3rd-year students have an odd form of tug-of-war. There are four ropes on the ground. The one in the middle, the longest, is worth two points. The other three are shorter and each is worth 1 point. Two teams face off from a starting line and have to run and pull as many ropes as they can over to their side. Obviously, most kids go for the two-pointer, but the element of strategy enters into it, since even if you get the longest one, you can still lose. It looks like fun.

The Taifun is another unique one, though not nearly as dangerous, although it can cause some damage. Students of all ages on each team line up five abreast, half on one side, half on the other, of a diamond with corners of cones. One line takes a length of bamboo and the five of them have to run to the first cone, go around, run to the next, go around, and so on until they reach the other half of their team. The middle three split off and the two end students have to run the pole underneath their comrades, who all have to jump in perfect time or risk having their legs knocked out from under them. Then they crouch as the pole is brought forward just over the tops of their heads to the first row who take off in the other direction. The first team to have all rows finish crouches down and stands the pole upright in front of them is the winner.

The last competition that I’ve seen them practicing this past week is a sort of team jump-rope. It’s pretty normal, using the bulkiest 3rd-years to swing the rope and everyone else jumping. One team I saw got 31 jumps on the first try, so I’m guessing they’ll win.

It will be fun to go and watch the kids compete, not to mention I’ll get a day off this week so I can relax. I’m scheduled to run at some point with the English club, though not in a teacher competition. I think the gym teachers or PTA are going to do some race, so I might try and get in on that.

An expensive night out

Well, I guess this post has been a bit longer in coming than I’d planned. Things have been a bit hectic and it doesn’t help that I’ve been feeling a bit of apathy lately about most things. I guess I’m just in another one of my funk moods. One of my friends is taking off, and my best friend here, Julian, is talking about leaving in July or August. People come and go, I guess. I have Japanese friends, but I don’t think they can take the place of the foreign friends I’ve had here, Ana, Damien, & Julian. The language barrier here can be quite strong, not to mention the natives never seem to have time to hang out. I don’t mind if I can’t see my friends every day, but when many of them seem to only have time once a month or so, that’s not quite enough. Not to mention I get the feeling from certain ones that they only reason they hang out is to practice their English. Being a walking language lesson gets old, especially when it’s your day job, too.

So enough whining. My Golden Week vacation wasn’t as eventful as Id’ve liked, though it wasn’t too bad. Last Friday I learned an important lesson. Japanese people may have the stereotype of being very punctual and respectful, but that’s just not true. Julian and I organized a party for the ALTs in the school system, as well as various teachers we’d met at different schools. We invited about 25. Fifteen said they’d come, so we reserved that many places at an izakaya (sort of restaurant/drinking establishment). Well, only 9 showed up. Three of our ALTs cancelled the day of, and 2 of the Japanese teachers evidently misunderstood what I told them, as well as the email ,in Japanese, that Julian’s girlfriend wrote, about the date and time. So Julian and I had to pay the $30/person that didn’t show up. It was a fiasco, financially. But we who showed up enjoyed ourselves. On the way out, we passed by some mannequin heads that had been put out on the street. Julian got ahold of one and managed to button his shirt up around his head so he looked abnormally tall. He went all the way to the train station with it like that. He got lots of looks, and we were all in stitches. I don’t know if the other teachers found it funny, but I thought it was hilarious.

So this month I’m trying to keep expenses down, yet every weekend I have some sort of expensive social obligation. This weekend is looking to be a fun one, if everything goes as planned. Friday night I’m meeting a couple people and heading up to Tokyo. The Akihabara district, to be exact. We’re going to head to a maid café. I’ve been wanting to find one and check it out for awhile, especially when my friends Aaron and Molly came to visit. We tried searching Akihabara, but no luck. We did find some girls dressed as maids, but they were advertising their pop band.

A maid café, apparently, is a café where all the workers are young (or young-looking) girls dressed up in skimpy French maid outfits. They were started up a few years ago to serve the otaku crowd: the geek crowd that has taken over Akihabara district, known for being the electronics shopping district. Evidently, they’ve also expanded to shops that offer haircuts, manicures, etc. Now you don’t have to be a greasy-haired dork to be an otaku, you can be a well-kempt dork who gets manicures from 30-year-olds dressed as his favorite anime character. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fun things

So I was planning on today to blog a bit and catch up. Well, since it's past my bedtime here, I guess that has to wait for tomorrow. But in the meantime, check out these two sites. One is a website with a movie timeline that chronicles all the events that have taken place in movies. Ana, you'd love this one.

The other is one that bears a bit more focus. One Red Paperclip is about a guy who's decided to barter his way from one red paperclip all the way up to a house. So far he's traded for an afternoon with Alice Cooper, and he's currently looking for that next trade. So if that's worth a house to you, go for it. Anyway, I think it's amazing he's done so well, though I have to say that TRULY trading up that way, for any average Joe, would be doing it without banking on the fame/notoriety you've gained from what you've decided to do. It's probably possible, but I'm sure it'd take a lot longer, as you wouldn't have famous/wealthy people deciding to do it for kicks. I wonder if anyone could do it surreptitiously. Hmm...

Actually, it reminds me a lot of a short story by Mark Twain I just finished. It's called the "1 million-pound note," and is the story of a man, lost at sea, who's rescued and dumped in London with no friends and no way to get help. He meets a couple of rich old brothers who make a bet. They want to see if a man, with only one 1-million-pound bill in his pocket, can survive for 30 days without starving/dying or being thrown in jail. Obviously, no one will change it for him,
and if he goes to the authorities, he would be tossed in the slammer for theft. It's quite a good story, I highly recommend the Signet Classics volume of Twain's short stories.

Both Twain's story and One Red Paperclip seem quite improbable, yet the short story (ok, so it's fiction) worked out, and the barter project seems to keep going up. I must say I'm impressed.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I'll (hopefully) write some more.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Late Saturday night post

Well, Golden Week's winding down. I've got some things to write, but I'm exhausted now, so I'm going to bed. You can take this test to tide you over til tomorrow. I always considered myself agnostic, but these things are so accurate...

The Ardent Atheist
The results are in, and it appears that you have scored 63%...
You are an atheist, pure and simple. You think God is just one big lie, and consider religious people to be both annoying and beneath you. Ardent atheists will argue tooth and claw for their position, and have no truck with people that won't listen. You think being an atheist is the only way to lead an honest life, and see no reason to accept the pleas of faith. Ardent atheists are the backbone of atheism. Be proud.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 30% on pentagrams
Link: The Atheist Test written by chi_the_cynic on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test