Friday, January 21, 2005

You know the weather's bad...

when people actually follow the speed limit.

Normally, the folks around here tailgate like tricycles after the ice cream truck, but the last couple of days, everyone's kept their distance.

I'm in Yokota this week, and it started snowing hard yesterday during school. Since the sky had been sunny and the ground clear, I'd foolishly worn sneakers to school that morning. In the afternoon, one of the teachers came in from outside and said, "Emily's car... snow," gesturing that my car was covered with a pile of snow. Lovely.

When I was leaving the teachers room and saying my Osakinis ("osakini shitsureishimasu" means, roughly, "I'm leaving before you, please excuse me," which everyone within earshot generally follows with a Sayonara, or "otsukaresama deshita"—thank you for your hard work—regardless of how hard you've actually worked)... anyway, when I was leaving, Yoshida-sensei, the P.E. teacher, bravely tried, "May I help you?" Kusunoki-sensei, a special ed. teacher who speaks quite a lot of English, laughed. "Say yes!"
"Yes," I said tentatively, "but I'm sure I'll be fine."
If I got into any trouble, they told me, I should shout, "Yoshida-sensei! Help!"
"Okay," I smiled. And since I knew the ichi-nensei (1st-year students) were going skiing the next day, and their teachers with them, I said, "This snow is good for skiing. Have fun!" I'm not sure if I managed to hide my jealousy. I didn't try very hard.

Sure enough, a three-inch blanket of snow covered my car. So that's why everyone was parked underneath the building, I thought. I set to work brushing it all off and scraping the ice from the windows. About five minutes later, I heard behind me, "Are you okay?"

Ikeda-sensei was out without her coat. "Yeah, I'm fine," I said, "but you must be freezing!"
"Everyone is worried about you, if you can get out."
I chuckled. "I'm a little curious, myself." The parking lot was covered with the same three inches of snow. "I think I'll be okay."
"If you can't get out, I will dig," she said, motioning like she had a snow shovel.
"Well, I hope it won't come to that."

I'd just finished cleaning the car off, so I got in and backed out quite easily. Woo! Go little car! The way home was slow going since everyone was being careful, but I arrived at my apartment without incident.

This morning I'd forgotten all about the snow, so though I left exactly on time for a fair-weather day, I had to spend seven or eight minutes clearing off another three inches of snow from my car, and then discovered that they don't clear the roads here like they do in Syracuse. Imagine a little neighborhood street in Central New York that doesn't see a snowplow for a day or so after the storm. Now imagine that little neighborhood street is the only road between two neighboring towns. Now imagine that even when the snowplow does visit this road, it doesn't even scrape down to the level of the road, but leaves about a centimeter of snow where it passes. So I got to school fifteen minutes late, but I don't think anyone was too upset.

There was a small disturbance in the teachers room at the beginning of first period, with the teachers there talking excitedly. I put on my curiosity face and looked at Ueda-sensei, who sits immediately across from me. She's one of the volunteers for the Japanese course I attend, but her English is pretty poor. She drew me a picture of some kind of transportation vehicle (a bus, I thought), and drew some snow around it. These she annotated with "snow" and "stop," and showed the drawing to me. "Oh, it stopped in the snow," I said, and spun my arms around each other making a noise like wheels spinning in the snow. She laughed and nodded.
"This is a bus?" I asked.
"Train," she said.
"The train stopped in the snow!" I was quite surprised, because I know they have a plow for the train tracks (I've seen it), and I've always considered (and especially this morning) that if the snow were ever too deep to drive in, I'd just take the train. "Where did it stop?"
She didn't understand, so I outlined an imaginary train line on my desk. "Minari... Kamedake... Yokota?"
"Yakawa," she added, which is the station after Yokota, then "Minohara," which is the mountain in Yokota Town that has a ski slope.

I finally understood the hubbub. "Ichi-nensei?!"
So the poor ichi-nensei had taken the train to the mountain, and were now stuck in the snow. Further conversations between the teachers and on the phone mentioned a school bus ("sukuuru baasu"), so I'm guessing they've sent one by now. They'll have to send a few, since there are about 80 ichi-nensei, and maybe eight teachers. I haven't seen Kyoto-sensei today; that might be where he is.

So with a third of the school population on a field trip (cry), it's been a quiet day. I have only one class, which Watanabe-sensei rescheduled to sixth period, so I have a large chunk of time to study Japanese post a blog entry. And then maybe study Japanese read the Daily Yomiuri. And then maybe study Japanese.

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