Sunday, April 30, 2006

One, three, double one, double six...

Today was a nice day to air out my futons, quilts and blankets. However, as I was wiping down my balcony rails I managed to drop the cloth I was using. Down it floated landing in the backyard of the people who live below me.

A fear of mine, since living in this apartment, is that one day my underwear is going to fly off my washing pole and land right in the garden below me. Eeks!

For lunch I made a tasty egg and brat sausage bagel.

I decided to have a quiet, relaxed day at home today. Did some reading, a whole heap of ironing and just enjoyed being in my little piece of Japan. In the evening I got a knock on my door and was invited to check out Yosuke and Noriko's new place with my other neighbours, Eric and Kanako.
Yosuke and Noriko have just moved into a new mansion apartment. It's quite sad to see them leave Aminity Kasumigaoka but their new place is only a 5 minute walk away so I'm sure I'll still run into them at the shops and around Tarumi.
Their new place is really nice! It has an amazing view of the bridge, 3 rooms and has a big kitchen and dining area. They ordered Pizza Hut pizzas and we made some salad. It was my first home delivered pizza experience. Pizza in Japan is quite expensive and home delivery will set you back about $20. They also like to use mayo and corn as topping.

We had a huge-ass square carbonara pizza and a sausage crust one.

Yosuke busting out his guitar as we watched his Talking Head's 'Stop Making Sense' dvd.

Am sure going to miss these guys.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I don't do Karaoke

I spent most of my morning doing laundry and cleaning. But with the scent of white tea and bamboo floating through the air in my apartment, I didn't mind.

In the evening I met up with Leigh, Alison and Marissa and we went to a turkish restaurant - the name which I've forgotten and can't pronounce, but I've been there once before. The food was quite nice, especially the dips and cheeses.

Then we had chocolate croissants and ice cream in the park while listening to some crazy punk group. The lead singer had long, mane-like blonde hair with horrible black regrowth and was screaming/shouting and rolling around on the pavement in his grey, baggy trackies (sweat pants). Interesting.

We met up with Sam and then headed to Junkara (Jumbo Karaoke). This is only my 2nd time going to karaoke while I've been in Japan. I'm not a fan of karaoke but I actually had a good time which didn't require us to be very drunk and belting out Queen.

Sam & Alison doing Johnny Cash

Leigh doing his weird 'Hai Irasshai' song

Sam singing while the girls do interpretive dance

Some random crazy Japanese guy who stumbled into our room and asked if he could bring friends

Then Takashi joined us afterwards. Highligts would have been Leigh & Marissa's 'A whole new world' duet, Sam & Leigh's 'Baby got back' duet and Alison's 'Oh happy day' Sister Act 2 performance.

Friday, April 28, 2006

School Trip

Today I went to Kyoto and joined in with my second year's ensoku (school trip) to Kyoto. Last year I wasn't allowed to go and just stayed at school with no classes. But this year, lucky me got to spend the day walking around Kawaramachi in the gorgeous sunshine. The teachers and I were all quite surprised that I was given the all clear by Kocho-sensei.
The first years went on a camp to Kannabe (Tajima - Northern Hyogo) and the third year's went to Arashiyama, a more north-western part of Kyoto near the mountains.
The students have to make their own way there and plan their own itineraries. They have to check their names off at the beginning of the trip and at the end. I followed the other two female second year teachers to Yasaka Shrine and walked to Kiyomizu Temple. We stopped for lunch (delicious matcha soba noodles with chicken) then headed back to the check point to make sure the students were all accounted for.
After the students were dismissed, we all went our separate ways and I bought some black sesame nama yatsuhashi (specialty of Kyoto), oil blotting paper from Yojiya (a famous cosmetics shop in Kyoto) and 2 tops from Zara (they really should open up a store in Kobe) before taking the train back into Sannomiya.
The second year teachers were having an enkai at an Okinawan-style izakaya. For 9 of us, there was way too much food. We had Okinawan korooke, big plates of fresh sashimi, mince chicken skewers, salad, Okinawan stewed pork, fried noodles, beef tataki, mango pudding and heaps more. Of course it was all you can drink too.
If only every Friday was like this.
With some 3rd year students Sannomiya station

Students checking in at Yasaka Shrine

Shijo Street

Teachers' standing on the left as late students arrive

Hanging monkeys

Steps up to Kiyomizu Temple

Kubo-sensei & Taniguchi-sensei

There were heaps of school groups out in Kyoto that day, including the yellow-hat-wearing elementary school kids.

Back at Yasaka Shrine

This student bought a plastic samurai sword and was wearing a jewelled necklace - he also had a bobby pin in his hair (it's quite common for my male students to pin back their fringes with hair clips).

I met these two students on the train ride to Sannomiya in the morning

These are some 3rd year girls I bumped into at Sannomiya station coming back from Kyoto

At the enkai

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Revelations in Starbucks

As I was sitting in Starbucks waiting for the supreme-brain-team to arrive for the quiz night, I sat back in my chair, slurping my matcha frappuccino (nama kurimu nashini) and watched the world around me.

The setting and atmosphere was so familiar and comfortable...but not. The Japanese chatter floated in the air and only some words were processed by my brain. I watched the suits walk in with their shiny, black, slicked back hair and pinstripes, the girls with their big hair, matching branded handbags and killer heels, the odd foreigner or two with a backpack or book. It was cosy, warm and smelt like fresh caffeine in a sturdy, takeaway cup.

Then panic set in. In about 3 months time I would be doing the same thing - sitting in a cafe, but in a different country, Australia. The countdown is beginning to freak me out. Although I do look forward to going home, I also don't want to leave. In about 3 months time, this will all be but a memory wanting to be alive again.

"Don't think of it as only 3 months left to go, but as you've still got 3 months here." Wise words from Alison.

So little time. Too short. How could 2 years pass by so quickly? I flipped through my diary and saw my remaining days left in Japan. It's like I'm about to wake up from an amazing dream and have to start facing reality.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mid-week madness

Okay, not really. It wasn't madness but it was a good reason to go out on a week night. Sam, Leigh, Alison and I headed to Becak for a quiz night. Simon had told us about it on Saturday.

Amanda (1st year JET who was in my mid-year seminar group) and Dan (3rd year Perth JET) have just started a quiz night thing at Becak held every fortnight. It was a fun, chilled and laid back kind of evening. I was the scribe and I realised my spelling has become quite atrocious since living in Japan. In our excitement to spell Helsinki (with an 'i'), Alison and I managed to spill our virgin chi chi's all over the table, floor and into my beloved, red leather Coach! Tragic, I know. I was speechless at first and it took me a while to process what had actually happened. My bag will forever be tainted by those damn virgins chi chi's! But at least we didn't break the glasses.

Our 'Team-I-don't-like-your-face' came second by 1 point. Not too shabs, aye?

Monday, April 24, 2006

It happened on a train of mine

I have come across many random things and experiences in Japan, most of them occuring on the train. Here are some train adventures of mine.

Train Story 1:
I have slowly mastered the train stair trek. That is trying to run up the stairs while people who just got off the train are making their way down. You have to be ruthless, darting and dodging your way upstream. My small steps become leaps as I miss every second step to make it to the doors before they close.

One day I just made it onto the train with the doors just closing behind me. I was puffed and out of breath but I didn't care because I managed to get on a rapid train and there was a free seat for me! I sat down by the window and caught my breath. At the next stop, this guy comes and sits next to me. He is holding this big bag clutched to his chest. Normal, right? If only!

This guy smelt SO bad. It wasn't body odour, bad breath or cigarette smoke, he reeked of something so revolting my gag-spasm kicked in. The smell almost made my eyes water. The best way I can describe it is as if someone had urinated on some haw flakes (you know the ones, those red, flat, round chinese sweets - I've never liked them, what the hell is a haw anyway?) and left them out in the sun to dry, then poured still-smokin' cigarettes and ash all over them, topped with 3 day old vomit.

I tried looking into his bag to see if maybe that was the source of the stench, perhaps he was carrying his dead cat (from 2 years ago) to the vet, but all I could make out was some plastic, cylinder container. I couldn't take it anymore and started coughing - it was the only way I could breathe. I rummaged through my bag and took out my lipgloss (which smells deliciously sweet) and liberally applied it to mask the smell. Then I took out my hand cream (which smells deliciously like roses) and liberally applied that. Thankfully the guy got off two stops later.

Train Story 2:
I was waiting for the train one evening and as the doors opened right in front of me, I looked up and saw one of my students. When they're not in their school uniform, it's a bit hard to recognise them but I remembered this 1st year student because he was very good at english in my class. I smiled and said hello but he didn't recognise me at first. I guess maybe because I wasn't in usual work clothes. Then suddenly it registered in his head who I was and he started bowing shyly. I couldn't help but laugh thinking 'chill, calm down, I'm just a normal person too'. I got on the train and he continued doing these little bowing nods as he turned around and faced me and got of the train backwards. He was so cute.

Train Story 3:
This actually happened to a friend of mine.
He was sitting in a train carriage taking one of the last trains home. There was this one guy who was really, really, totally, very well smashed. Suddenly he yakked on the train. Yeah no big deal, been there, done that. But this dude yakked projectile spew. His ramen noodles were running down the windows and chunks of mabo-tofu made pools on the floor. Hmm tasty.

Can't think of anymore right now, but every train ride in Japan is an adventure. Especially during peak hours when you are squashed up, arm pit level, in a human sardine tin on rails. Fun.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekend in a nutshell

Saturday I went to the gym then met up with Sam and Miwako in Sanners for dinner. We went to Sapna and I ordered exactly the same thing as I always do; Mini course with mutton curry, full nan and hot chai.

With the night still young, we headed to Becak to chill out with some drinks (after last night, they were of the non-alcoholic variety - virgin chi chi's to be exact). Leigh met up with us later and talk turned to nutrition, Nakata vs Ichiro, languages, meeting Simon's lovely wife - Kerrie (from Sydney) and pick up lines. Sam's 'yume' (dream) one was pretty good, considering that he made it up on the spot and it was bilingual. Nice one.

Sunday I got up early and joined the Kobe JET folk on their outing to COSTCO. It was my first time going there but I've heard only good things about that place. A foreign food (and anything else) heaven for gaijin living in Japan. The only thing I can think to compare it with back home is FAL. Big shop with lots of food (mostly imported) in big quantities at good prices. Basically, bulk buying.

I had to remind myself that I only have a few more months left in Japan and that I didn't really need a new weather clock, BBQ set, inflatable pool and a year's supply of seasame dressing. In the end I got some bagels (you had to buy two packs and now they are taking up half of my freezer space), whole dried raspberries, smoked bratwurts, masala chai mix, microwave popcorn (came in a box of 36 packets but I split them with Alison), macaroni cheese mix (highly recommended by the COSTCO veterans so I went halvsies with Melanie) and *drumroll* lamb!

I couldn't wait to cook it up. I got home, unpacked everything, cut up the block of lamb so I could freeze small portions of it, then fried up the most delcious piece of lamb I've had in Japan. Seasoned only with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary from my 'garden', it smelt and looked so good, I wolfed it down before I could take a picture. So happy!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Farewell Party

We had our school's farewell party at Hotel Montery tonight. It was a great night to relax, talk to some of the new teachers and say last goodbyes to the teachers who were leaving.

The place was really nice and the food was good too - sushi, beef steak, pasta, salad, bruschetta things, cream cheese mousse dessert cups, chawanmushi...they just kept on bringing out more and more food!

Singing the school's song in a big group hug

Applauding and shaking hands with the teachers who were leaving. The teachers make a archway for the leaving teachers to walk through but Teranishi-sensei is way too tall.

I'm going to miss Crazy-sensei. We usually greet each other with "Op!" He was one of the baseball coaches and it's a thing our baseball boys say to one another instead of "hello". He told me that "Op" is used to greet older students (to show respect to the sempai's) and "Chop" is used to greet the younger students.

Me: Op! Let's take a photo together.

Him: Op! Okay. What kind of sign do they do in American?

Me: But, I'm from Australia!

Him: Oh yeah. Australia, that's right. I know that. So what sign do they use in Australia? How about this? (does a thumbs up)

Me: Yeah...that will do.

*This conversation was in Japanese and he had already downed quite a lot of beer*

Baseball & head-of-the-bakamono-club-sensei. I gave him a blue tie with little, gold kangaroos on it (sounds tacky but believe me, it was very simple and tasteful) and he immediately put it on. I'm going to miss him a lot.

Young-part-time-maths-sensei isn't leaving but she just recently got married and I missed her wedding party when I flew back to Perth.

Me with Science-computer-sensei, he is now teaching in Awaji Island at Dan's school.

With Home-economic-sensei (she's leaving to teach in Osaka), my adopted-Japanese-father-sensei and school-band-sensei.

With Young-part-time-maths-sensei ~ always sleepy and always drinking. I'm going to miss our broken Japanese/English conversations - he is hilarious.

After the enkai finished, a group of us moved onto the 'second' party. Adopted-Japanese-father-sensei took us to this snack place which he apologised for being a 'dirty old man's' kind of place. They had this barbeque bench with tatami tables and stools where they cooked the food.

We sat in the tatami area and continued the eating and drinking. Judo-sensei was dressed up in a 3 piece suit. Hello Judo-sensei! He looked very nice indeed, all suited up. A new part-time sports teacher also joined us and being the new teacher, he was the one ordering the drinks and making sure everyone was okay. He specialises in wrestling and is freakin' huge! Even bigger than Judo-sensei! It was quite funny when all the other teachers were asking him questions like "What's your shoe size?", "How much do you weigh?", "What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?".

With my Adopted-Japanese-father-sensei. He was very well drunk and oh-so-hilarious by the end of the night.

Afterwards I headed to Polo Dog to re-toxify with Sam and Leigh. Leigh, the lady killer, had been 'conned' (so he says) into giving out his number to 2 chicks and they even got a photo with him!

Leigh - Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Also bumped into Josh and meet this crazy drunk woman who is now known as 'Gakuentoshi 701' lady. She invited Leigh, and apparently me, to her place to see the cherry tree in front of her apartment.

Leigh, Sam and me

The guys missed their last subway, so we had some more drinks and caught one of the last JR trains back to Tarumi, then taxied home. Thanks for the fun night, boys!