FINALLY SPRING IS HERE.
So that means nice weather. And nice weather means more events. And more events mean I CAN GET OUT OF MY APARTMENT.
I believe that I’ve mentioned before that culture shock is a cycle, not a singular spontaneous event. The first stage is the OMG THIS IS GREAT EVERYTHING IS AWESOME LOOK AT THAT THAT IS SO NEAT stage. Stage two is the WOW I HATE EVERYTHING I’M GOING TO STAY IN BED ALL DAY WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I SMILED OR SAW THE SUN stage.
I think it’s safe to say that throughout the winter, I was definitely in Stage Two, like most people tend to be during winter. (Which is why it’s kind of tricky that they put the recontracting time in the middle of winter. It’s like, if you can’t handle Stage Two, it’s probably best you don’t stay. Daaaaamn, that’s cold.)
I’m aware—and I was aware during it—how much I complained. I told myself pretty much every day, “Stop complaining, jeez. No one wants to hear it, and it’s negative and just brings everybody down.” I felt like a major Debbie Downer.
But it was really difficult. Just so many things bothered me, and I was really lonely, and it was really hitting me how much Japan is like America in the 1960s and how far behind Japan is in women’s rights, and there are so many things wrong with the world, and it was just bothering me so much. (I’ve had this discussion with a few other people—out of “First World” countries, Japan is almost the most behind on women’s rights, socially and legally.) I mean, there were other things bothering me, and I was aware of the reasons, but it was just really getting me down…
I feel bad for complaining to people so much… but I was stuck in this really awful place. Is it fair to blame winter?
But now it’s spring, and I actually feel loads better. There’s more sun and more events… People seem to be coming out of hibernation. I can feel myself becoming less negative—like I’m transitioning back into Stage One (or rather, Stage Three, which is when things sort of level out).
It helps that things are finally moving, after a long winter.
On Friday, April 12th, I was sitting at home, eating dinner, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and getting ready to swim at my gym. It was shaping up to be an average night. I would probably even go sleep early, because I needed to get up early in the morning to catch a ride up to Chiba City.
And then Kawana-sensei called.
Kawana: “Hello, Megan. Have you eaten?”
Me: “Er… Yes.”
Kawana: “Damn…” (a pause) “Come drinking with us anyway.”
It was totally random, but I said okay, and then five minutes later, he picked me up at my house. On the way to the restaurant, he got a call from Victor. Apparently, Victor and Mike had just finished their workout, and they wanted to get sushi, but Kawana-sensei invited them to the Tomiura dinner instead.
Then he told me the reason for this spontaneous outing: It was a Tomiura Elementary teacher’s birthday.
“But it’s a surprise,” he said.
We met up with Victor and Mike and then walked to the restaurant. I wasn’t sure exactly who was going to be there, but it turned out to be the two new young teachers at Tomiura JHS and two teachers from Tomiura Elementary.
It was great! I got to talk to the new people more, and the Elementary school teachers kept asking me questions and told me they wanted to come over to my house (awkward).
By the end of it, I was so tired. We ended up staying out together past midnight, which would have been way more exciting for me (I haven’t stayed out late in AGES and I miss it!) if I didn’t need to catch a bus at 8 in the morning. Oops. But I’d like to do something like that again. :)
On Saturday, April 13th, there was a matsuri in Narita—and it was all about taiko! OMG I LOVE TAIKO.
I made arrangements to meet up with Cameron, and when I got there, I found Cameron and Laura and HELLA OTHER PEOPLE AND IT WAS AWESOME.
It was good to see everyone again, because I don’t see them very often. I was excited to talk to the other Megan again, too, and the best thing happened.
Recently, I’ve fallen in love with the Nerdfighters, found here. They are these awesome brothers who communicated for a year in 2007 through only talking and video blogs, and one of them writes bestselling young adult novels.
Megan and I got to talking about books that we like, and she said that she was in the middle of this book that her friend recommended. She wanted to know what I thought of it and then—DUN DUN DUHH—she pulls out John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars, the first two chapters of which I had just finished here.
I got so excited! It was awesome.
Then, later that night, I had a writers meeting in Chiba City that I was totally late for because I missed a train. Oops.
On April 26th, some Chiba ladies got together in Chiba City to hang out. Weee!
Apparently there wasn’t really a plan, which irked me at first, because while I was getting ready—and this is going to sound so silly—I had no idea what to wear. Like, would we be going to clubs, so should I wear something, you know, club-y, or were we just going to bars, or were we just going to chill, or what what what?
Finally, I just said, “Screw it,” and put on some black jeans and a tank top. I’m not one to dress up anyway.
Turns out that was fine, because it was truly a ladies’ night—we just chilled together all night. It was awesome.
We got some burgers, and then we wanted to go to this bar to sit down and talk, but it was really crowded, so we ended up at an Uotami (a restaurant) where we ordered drinks and accidentally talked until closing time. Oops!
I planned to stay with Rochelle, since I didn’t want to have to leave the party early because of the trains. Because we ended up staying so late, some other ALTs missed their last train and joined me at Rochelle’s. Yay! More girls’ night! XD Except we pretty much went right to bed (besides giggling stupidly for about an hour), because it was nearly 2 in the morning and we all had to get up at 5 to catch a train.
BBQ—Sunday, April 28th
On Friday, I went to Tomiura Elementary School, like I do every Friday. I guess I haven’t talked much about what I do at elementary school, but I teach with this amazing lady named Hanawa-sensei. She’s just—She’s my favorite. Favorite everything ever.
I think I haven’t mentioned her since the entry about my first week actually—she was the woman who saw me on the street and then dropped by my house to introduce herself. But I see her every week, and I always look forward to going to elementary school.
Anyway, on Friday, she told me that she was going to have a barbecue at her house on Sunday and that I should come. She said she would call me about it during the weekend, but when I didn’t get a call on Saturday, I kind of forgot about it.
That is, until Sunday morning. I was sleeping in, but she called me and woke me up. It was about 10 in the morning—but I wasn’t the only one sleeping that late, because then she told me that she had just woken up, too. Haha!
She lives only a few blocks away, so when it was about noon, I bought some mangoes and walked to her house. The barbecue was small, like she said it would be—it was Hanawa-sensei, her husband, her son, a friend, and the friend’s daughter. Her husband barbecued everything—haha, just like in the U.S., women are in charge of food until it’s a barbecue—and I played with the kids.
Eventually, Hanawa-sensei revealed that the other woman was the mother of one of my students. I was surprised into saying, “Oh, M? I love her!” Because that student is one of the sweetest girls ever. Her mother was really pleased to hear that, but then she and her daughter said that M might be an angel at school, but she’s a devil at home. Haha! They used those words—tenshi for angel and akuma for devil. Aww! Then they told me she was going through a “rebellious stage,” so I learned the Japanese word for that (hankouki).
I feel a little bad, because I didn’t use much Japanese, and I really wanted to try to speak Japanese. But it felt really weird to speak Japanese in front of kids. Like, it’s uncomfortable for me to speak Japanese anyway, but it feels really weird to speak it in front of kids. I think it’s because at school, I feel like I shouldn’t use Japanese in front of the students, because they should be exposed to English as much as possible. Right? I dunno. I’m just in a habit of not speaking the little Japanese I can in front of the students.
Hell, it’s even weird when I have to say “Shitsurei shimasu” as I’m leaving if a student is in the staff room! (Note: That’s just something you say before you leave an office, basically meaning, “Sorry I’m leaving before you” or something.)
Also, whenever I do say a Japanese word in front of students at school, they freak out and get distracted. |D Like… ugh. That’s part of why I have so much trouble doing certain things—when people call attention to something I’m doing, it makes it difficult to keep doing that thing. Like when people freaked out in middle school when I wore a dress. After that bull shit, I thought, “Welp, never doing that again.” And then at an enkai once, I said something in Japanese, and one of my JTEs totally went, “Whoa, she just said something in Japanese,” and laughed. I mean, it wasn’t a mean laugh or anything, she was just surprised, but her calling attention to it made me feel really uncomfortable. So I kinda shut up after that.
SIGHHH. Guys, just play it cool when someone does or says something new that they’re trying out. Just play it cool. Unless it’s wrong, in which case, correct them, but jeez, if it’s fine, don’t call attention to it.
ANYWAY I GOT OFF TRACK. Regardless of my lack of Japanese, it was a fun BBQ and we all understood each other just fine. Even though I didn’t talk much to the kids, we played the entire time—just bouncing a basketball back and forth and playing musical chairs whenever someone got up to chase the ball. :) They were sweet kids!
Chikura Art Market
Monday, April 29th, was a holiday, and there was an art fair at the Chikura michi no eki. Kim and I made plans to go in the morning, because we had heard it gets crowded and it’s more difficult to find parking in the afternoon.
The weather was perfect. I am so glad it’s spring now.
Kim and I walked along the aisles, and at one point, a man selling some drawings stopped us—in perfect English—and asked us where we were from. We talked for a while, and then he told us, “Your friends are over there, selling wooden furniture.”
We talked to him for a bit longer, and then we continued walking down the aisles. When we got to where the man had indicated, we found two foreigners selling some handmade furniture. We all greeted each other and introduced ourselves, and then I said, “So we heard that some of our friends were over here selling furniture.” They laughed, and we all agreed that it was silly to assume that all foreigners know each other. (It’s like how many of my teachers think I know Michael Phelps just because I’m American and I swim.)
And now we’re friends. :D Kim and one of them exchanged business cards, and hopefully we’ll all get in contact and have barbecues. One of the men has lived in Japan for about twenty years, because he met his wife here. He was from… umm… England, I think? And the other man was from Germany.
Also, why does everyone in Chikura have perfect English? We ran into two other Japanese ladies—one who I met when I picked up my surfboard!—who had great English. I think it’s because Chikura is actually pretty famous for tourism, so people are probably bound to speak English better, just because they’re more likely to deal with foreigners, like in Tokyo.
Or maybe it’s something in the water, I don’t know.
I liked everything at the art fair, and it really reminded me of the craft fairs in Redondo Beach, except everything was actually fairly priced. Something that would have probably gone for 40 bucks at one of those Redondo Beach fairs cost only 1800¥ (about $18) at this fair. And I was like, “Shit, I’ll pay that.”
So I bought stuff!
Those are clip-on earrings, by the way. Ebony told me later that those kinds of earrings are common in Japan, because not a lot of Japanese people get real piercings. Well, that makes it convenient for me, because I don’t have pierced ears. Everyone is always surprised when I tell them that, too, which strikes me as strange. It usually goes like this:
Me: “I don’t have pierced ears.”
Someone: “What? Really? Why not?”
Me: “…Ummm… because?”
o_O Why does everyone have the assumption that everyone has their ears pierced? Hmm…
And just so I don’t have to explain for the umpteenth time—I had my ears pierced in 6th grade, but then I just didn’t like the hassle of having to remember to change them and buy new ones… Like I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’m a pretty casual dresser. I always try to get low maintenance hair cuts, too.
Or maybe I’m just lazy. XD
Anyway, we also got to see the Kappa Man!
I think he’s some sort of street performer in the area. He did some dances and skits, but Kim and I only wandered over in time to watch him breathe fire. :O I took a video, but I can’t load videos on this blog. Sorry! You’ll have to settle for stills.
And then afterwards, I went to the beach with Ebony, and we found these awesome sand sculptures!
michi no eki n. Literally “road station.” Like a road stop, with restaurants and souvenir shops.