Sunday, August 28, 2005

why Japan is wonderful.

sunset in the pool
Originally uploaded by Bob Jones.

this is NOT a picture from Japan. in fact, this is Dave and Dagmar's backyard (from North Pelham)! we don't get too many nice sunsets here in Japan in the summer, but that's not what makes it wonderful.

Kathy and i arrived back less than a week ago. here are just a couple interesting interactions. remember in each case, the Japanese person involved speaks little or no english.

1. the photography store. i arrive with a roll of film for developing. the son of the owner (who works there during the week) greets me with a great big smile and in mostly Japanese he tells me about the weather the last two weeks, hopes my trip to Canada was safe, gets excited about typhoons, and wants to know what my pictures are about. he really liked the ones from our hike in Balls Falls.

2. i go to the grocery store. i see a couple of students i teach. one of them tells her mother who begins bowing and thanking me. i check out and as i'm bagging my stuff, she comes over to me and says something (i think very kind) in Japanese (i have no idea what she said really) and gives me two boxes of salted crackers. salted crackers you ask? i guess that's all she had in her cart that she thought was appropriate. she was kind enough, she knew that when she saw me she wanted to give me a gift to say thank you for teaching her daughter. it's the thought that counts.

3. i go to the convenience store. the ladies that work the weekday shift are really nice. they treat Kathy and i like royalty. everytime one of us comes in they come right over and try to talk to us. they keep saying something like (loosely translated): "it's so good you are an english teacher. i can't speak any english. i'm sorry. thank you for teaching english. that's really good. thank you." and then they bow a lot. this time, there was a new lady i hadn't seen before. the one who is normally the most outgoing told the other in Japanese something like this: "he's an English teacher from Canada. they live close to here. his wife is very beautiful" and then she looks at me and says in english, "charming". i didn't really understand what she was saying (i pieced it together after) and so i thought she was still talking about Canada. so i said, no, not charming - to which she made a pretty funny face (i guess i was confessing that i didn't think Kathy was charming!) i figured it out quick and pretended i was joking. they bowed and said thank you lots as i was leaving.

4. we went to Dai Dai restaurant around the corner from our apartment yesterday with Ayako and a new teacher. as soon as we walked in, the waitress that usually serves us (and speaks some english) got a great big smile on her face, welcomed us, and then told some of the other staff we were there. a couple of them came out with big smiles. we sat down and the fellow who took our orders and served us just kept smiling - almost laughing. it was like we made his day. he kept saying things like it's been a while, it's good to see you, and then he laughed and said - "i was lonely!" when we said we had gone to Canada for two weeks.

it seems there are a lot of places we go in this town where people recognize us. people are really kind when we see them - it's a bit of the movie star syndrome - an ALT (we are ALTs) is a bit like a movie star because we are foreign, and different, and in this part of Japan strange enough to be noticed, but not unusual enough to be stared at. but everyone is really friendly and seemingly interested in us.

it's good to be back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Check It Out!

Hey Canuck friends and family! Do you want to see yourselves? Check out our updated photosite.
WE ARE HOME (IN JAPAN) SAFE. time for some sleep....

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Is It Already That Time???

Yup, here is a sampling of the people we saw these past two weeks: mom and dad Urbancok, mom and dad Epp, Dagmar, Dave and Fam, Brian, Fatima, Paul, Karen, Karen's belly, sister Karen, mama Erika and papa Willy, Rose, Nathan, Sue, and (oh my gosh) her boyfriend Karl, Josh and Karen, Caroline, Abel, and their three adorable munchkins, Nadine and Nan, Jason, Beth, and super-cute Jacob, Dave, Cynthia, and hairdresser Kendra, Scott, Jesse, the YOUTH (you ARE reading the blog now, RIGHT GUYS???), our awesome hairdresser Sara, and a whole lot others.

Amazingly, we managed to fit MOST of you in.

When we first arrived, we were tired. July had been kind of tough, and we were ready for a break. At first, we just got MORE tired, but finally, thanks to lots of good food, good sleeps, and Dagmar and Dave's hottub, we got rested.

Thanks everyone. It was great. And it's hard to go back. In many ways, it's like we never left. Sure, there are things that frustrate us about Canada, but it was amazingly easy to settle back into the comfortable routine of ... home. We will miss you. We may even miss you all more this time than we did last time. We were surprised by how much you missed us, we really were. And we were thrilled to find out how many of you keep up with us through the blog.

So God bless you. Thank you for everything you all gave us these past couple weeks. We love you and we will all meet again soon...

Till then, check out the photosite. Jeff's been working on it here, and in about 30 hours, as soon as we get back, he'll be uploading his work to our photosite. So you can all see your beautiful selves published on the Internet!

Love you much,

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Sumidagawa Fireworks

So on July 30th, Jeff and I went to Tokyo for the fireworks. We left shortly before 5, hit the expressway, and got to Tokyo by 7. We won't do this again. One Japanese source (she will remain unnamed) advised us to go early in the morning since all spots would be taken by about 10am. This source was wrong.

We got to the park around 8am. One side of the park was already crowded with mostly empty blue tarps, and a few groggy people who had obviously (and unwisely) spent the night. The view of the river was also blocked by a large, ugly fence and various other barriers. So we decided to try the strangely quiet other side of the river. We plunked down our mats on the unforgiving concrete and promptly fell asleep. But alas, we were woken at 9:30 by well-meaning cops who informed us that for some unknown reason, we could not stay seated in that area... sigh...

So we trudged all our stuff back to the other side of the river (remember how much I packed?) and we found a spot in the midst of the gazillion blue tarps to once again plunk down our little mats. The spot was under beautiful trees. Nice for napping, but not so good for fireworks viewing. It was about 10am. It was unbelievably muggy. I was tired. Jeff was suffering from a horrible sunburn. The fireworks didn't start till 7. It was a very long day.

Then, at about 5:30pm, after walking through the crowds and scoping out other increasingly crowded areas, Jeff and I decided to ditch our day-long guarded territory and squish between two other couples to enjoy an unobstructed view of the fireworks. Unfortunately, by the time they started, we were both so exhausted we were ready to call it a night.

Moral of the story? The Japanese are small people and they know how to squish. Go to over-rated events at the last possible minute... and squish in. They may not like it, but they'll be too polite to say anything about it!

The best part of the night was the aftermath. One million people leaving the riverside at the same time. It was incredible, surreal. Policemen on platforms with lightstands shining down on them, belting out directions to local train and subway stations. Dozens of policemen making massive crosswalks out of giant, closed roads, simply by using a bit of team spirit and yellow rope. Policemen stationed every ten feet, answering questions, keeping control. Food vendors trying to sell their last bits of yakisoba, shaved ice, and takoyaki. And were there any problems? Any riots? What do you think? The biggest ruckus I saw was caused by a drunk foreigner who refused to cross at the crosswalk and then blubbered profanities at the policeman who tried to keep him from doing so.

It was certainly an experience.

And the fireworks? Oh ya, they were good.

Next time we'll go at 6.
My goodness, the port-a-potties are exploding!!! That's right folks, this was certainly a one-of-a-kind fireworks display ;)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Ota Matsuri

We went to our city's summer festival two weekends ago. We finally have some pictures to show you. We went both days, Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we went with some other English teachers. We watched some karate, traditional dances, and saw a TON of students. It was really fun. We were both mobbed throughout the day.

On Sunday, we went with the Uranos. First, they took us out for a delicious tempura lunch, and then we went to watch the mikoshi parade. It was a great day, and once again, we saw a lot of students. More pictures may come in the future (Jeff hasn't scanned them all yet), but for now, enjoy!
I received this yukata from a Japanese friend seven years ago... the last time I was in Japan. I finally wore it at the Ota festival. The Uranos, an older couple we have gotten together with a number of times, helped me put it on.
These guys helped to carry the main mikoshi (portable shrine). Many men carry a VERY HEAVY mikoshi for a LONG time, and the crowd watching soaks them with water. Lots of fun. The guy in the middle is the son of the man who owns the camera shop Jeff always goes to.
I love this picture. Those students are the same age, 14, in the same class. The boy, Ryoma, is the smallest boy in our school. He looks like an elementary student. So cute!
Men performing traditional Japanese acrobatics. This made us very nervous. The ladder was held up with a series of wooden poles, and there was no safety net.
A traditional Japanese taiko drum. Beautiful...

Monday, August 01, 2005

By the Way...

He apologized.
'WHO?' you say...
Our supervisor at work. The guy we had a fight with.
'WHAT FIGHT?' you say...
The fight that we mysteriously alluded to a few posts back. The fight that made us want to go home. The fight that made us minor celebrities in Ota for a week. The fight that tested the pride and power of a strange Japanese man.

The fight that we don't really want to talk about anymore 'cause we are SO DONE with it. Jeff is happy again, Kathy is a bit wary...

But the man apologized! しんじられない!!!

Thought we should let the folks back at home know. Thanks for your emails and phonecalls. It's always wonderful to be reminded that we're loved! ;)