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Homebase - Kannami, Shizuoka, Izu Peninsula

Written on: Sunday August 12th, 2007

A journal entry from: Japan

First post ?

Or ?Ah, procrastination??


I have no excuse, really, I?m very, very sorry I have been a bad blogger. Well, I haven?t been a blogger at all, have I? Even when you move to a new country, it?s easy to just keep saying, hey, I?ll get on that tomorrow?.


Well, I can`t believe how much time has passed. It seems like a long time since I first arrived in the middle of the night in Japan; and at the same time, I haven?t really been here that long at all. I arrived dead-tired, having traveled something close to 24-hours straight since I had woken up in Victoria, to when I was dropped off at my temporary quarters to sleep in Kannami. My first companion in Japan was a white cat: when I woke up the next morning, I went out to my balcony, and looked around. I was feeling a little transformed, a little re-awoken inside. I was in a new country! A while later, I saw the white cat, on the next street, heading towards a small garden. It?s just occurred to me now, as I?m writing this, that I could make something of a reference to `Alice in Wonderland` here?.but anyway, there was the pure white cat, and the cat was the only living thing around, and really the only living thing I saw much of the first couple days, though my friendship with him was purely at a distance and one-sided. Still, I feel endeared to him; I saw him most days until I moved into my permanent place a couple weeks later.





I think I?ve adjusted really well to Japan so far; but I think that the lifestyle here is really not so far removed from the lifestyle of Canada in a lot of ways. At least in some ways. People drive their cars (on the left-hand side), go to work, buy their food at the supermarket (but different vegetables and meat and goodies), and watch TV and movies (but in Japanese, and with Japanese-style game-shows and dramas), and so on. There is even a Mister Donut a couple blocks from my house. (And of course, it isn?t a very far walk to more than one 7-11 or McDonald?s, plus a Kentuky Fried Chicken, if I wanted one. But even if you don?t eat there, you can?t deny they do create some familiarity.)


On the other hand, it?s not just like home. The biggest challenge so far is language. For a couple weeks I was mute and deaf ? because I could not communicate, and no one could communicate with me. This made contemplating even a simple task difficult ? how can you find anything, or get a taxi, or ask a question, or make any arrangements for yourself when you can?t talk with the people around you? (But to be fair, a lot of Japanese people know at least a few words in English, so that makes it easier.) The only thing I can do easily is buy something at the shop ? as long as I don`t have any questions about what I am buying ? since it only means being able to walk to the cashier with my items and count out money. Even though I still speak only a few words of Japanese, I feel much more comfortable now with the language around me, and less solidly mute than before, I still have a long way to go to be able to really speak, though ? my great achievement so far is being able to count to 10, which I will gladly and proudly recite for you. I?ve started Japanese lessons once a week now, so hopefully I?ll start learning fast.


My job is going well so far. I think that I like being a teacher. About half my students are under 6 years old, most of the rest are teens or adults. It?s been interesting working with the kids ? I think I?ve already learned a lot. I like my lessons with the teens and adults, too; I'm really glad I'm not teaching just kids. It was tough at first ? one day felt like three, a week felt like a month, I had no idea how I was going to keep up with the lesson plans ? but I?ve adjusted now, and I?m handling the workload fine.


The weather here is hot in the summer, even through the spring rainy season, and it is so humid?I suddenly have a lot of sympathy for my Ontario cousins who have told me many times about the humid summers out there. I think I am adjusting to the climate; summer has really kicked in and I'm doing not too bad with it. When I first arrived, the rice fields had just been planted, and they looked like ponds of water dotted with little green plants, reflecting everything around them; now they are waist-high and lush green. The frogs were singing loudly every night until recently, but now it?s mostly only the crickets. But in the morning and afternoon, the locusts start, and my god are they loud. If you pass a tree fulll of them, it's like the sound of a high-voltage power tower, but magnified and with a sharper sound.


Life has been a quiet and simple so far, although I have had a lot to do between the job and getting set up. I have got my apartment all done now (I?ll upload some pictures soon). I have a bike and I go riding next to the river ? it?s fantastic, there is a network of little rivers all around here, and there are paths along almost all the banks, so I can go in all different directions and take different turns every time. We?ve had a couple little events at the school, including a "bamboo party." A long bamboo pole is split down the middle to make a chute, and set up on an incline; a little stream of water is fed down the chute, and then soba noodles are added and flow down with the water. The object is to catch the noodles as they go past with your chopsticks, dip them in your sauce, and eat. Extra "bragging rights" if you catch a not-so-rare pink or green noodle! I?ve also gone to a little local festival honouring cats. Why cats, you ask? No one?s been able to actually explain that to me yet. But there are tons of festivals in Japan in the summer. The fireworks were great, too.


I have just started my summer vacation ? in a couple days I?m heading to Okinawa, with Kelly (one of the other teachers). So, as long as I don't procrastinate again, I'll have another post for you soon!