Monday, October 24, 2005

Cheeky Supervisor

Since my desk at the BoE has been changed, I now sit next to Cheeky Supervisor. Cheeky Supervisor discovered my small candy stash several months ago, when one day my large desk drawer was open as he walked by. Location of candy duly noted, he reached down and helped himself to a Werther's Original (yes, they sell them here). I'd been just about to offer him one, so I said sarcastically, "Dozo" (please, help yourself). I'm not sure he got it. This happened at least one more time, when he helped himself to two Werther's.

Of course the candy horking increased significantly when my desk changed a month ago. He was right there when I was organizing the drawers, and helped himself then. Actually, I think he just looked at it, and read the front of the bag like he didn't know what was inside, so of course I offered him some. Last week he tried to tell me something—I think it was that he'd been horking my candy while I was away from my desk, and that he'd replace it. But between his English and my Japanese, I couldn't be sure.

Today, about ten minutes ago, I opened up the drawer to get something. Remembering the candy stashed at the back, and Cheeky Supervisor sitting next to me, I pulled the drawer all the way open. "Dozo," I said, gesturing to the bag.
But the bag was empty. Yep, he'd already eaten it all. This time he really promised to replace the candy. "Yes, the same kind, please." I'm not entirely sure why I bought it in the first place, as I rarely eat it myself; I think I bought that bag last year. So it's not the fact that my candy is gone that gets me, it's the fact that he snuck it out of my desk.

You can probably guess why I call him Cheeky Supervisor.

A few months ago, when I was checking out new apartments, CS and I drove out to Yakawa on a warm June day. Getting into my car, he promptly closed the windows, turned the air conditioner on high, and aimed all the fans on himself. The temperature was maybe 28C (82F), and Yakawa is five minutes away, so it seemed excessive.

Cheeky Supervisor helped me move apartments, which was very kind of him. He, with Stimulant Man (that's the best name I've got for him now; I'll talk about him sometime else) did most of the heavy lifting. They drove the big truck to Yokota, while I drove my car, and my (real) supervisor and another office lady drove separately. CS and SM got to the Yokota apartment a few minutes ahead of the other women and me, and had already started to unload the truck when we arrived. It wasn't until everything had been moved in and everyone else had left that I realized someone had used my toilet (No. 1), and the water had not yet been turned on. This was a Friday, and the water was not due to be turned on till Monday. As it was, it wasn't turned on until Tuesday or Wednesday, and after then it took three days of ventilation fan and incense cones to clear out the smell. I have no real proof of which guy it was who used the WC, but I know who my money's on.

For a few days this summer I wore a new pair of sandals someone had gifted me: wooden soles painted with butterflies, and thin straps with purple sequins. I probably wouldn't have bought them myself, but since they were a gift, I thought I'd give them a try. At five o'clock one one of these days at the BoE, the chime sounded and we all got to work sweeping the floor. Cheeky Supervisor was sweeping near me, and noticed my shoes.
"Pretty," he said.
"Thank you," I smiled. So far, so good.
He paused, then asked where I got them. "Juntendo?"
I glared at him. Juntendo is the local hardware and home supply store, sort of like Home Depot. Fair enough for him to think I'd gotten them someplace local, but even Kuraichi, the supermarket next to Juntendo, has a decent shoe section; that might have been the better guess. In truth, the shoes had come from Shoes AiLand in Matsue.

So all this might make it sound like the guy drives me nuts, but really I like him. He's funny, he talks to me, and he helps me with car stuff. And he looks over to see what I'm doing on the computer every once in a while.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I've got to tell you what a state I'm in.

For some reason, I've had Coldplay's "Warning Sign" stuck in my head for the last few days. Since Monday, at least.

Months ago, in late May, Dad sent me a short e-mail asking if I was homesick, and if there was anything he could send me. I wasn't feeling especially homesick at the time, but a couple of nights later I had a dream.

A man and a woman were engaged to be married. They were very important people, like the president or much-beloved politicians. They wanted to announce their engagement, but were afraid of the fuss and trouble the media would cause.
Then they were married, traveling from the wedding to the house they'd just bought. They walked up to the large, old house, and when they reached the porch I became the woman. I thought to myself that most women walk into a new house and wonder what they're going to do with the place, so as I crossed the porch I started to wonder what I was going to do with the place.
The front door was open, and I saw that the house was not empty; in fact, it was fully furnished. As I walked through the front door I saw that it was exactly like the house I grew up in, with crocheted afghans and newspapers on the floor, with dolls sitting on the backs of armchairs, with a lamp on the endtable—everything was the same, and I gasped so loudly that it was an inhaled scream, and I started to cry. And after I knew I'd been dreaming, I cried even harder.

I wrote Dad back the next day and asked him to send me one of Grammy's afghans.

The truth is,
I miss you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An exercise in distraction

Last night started one of those bad dizzy spells I get, this one being the worst I've had in Japan. I had to "call in" to school today (read: I e-mailed my JTE at 5am and asked her to tell the vice principal and the other JTE that I wouldn't be in). It sucks, cos yesterday I had no classes, and today I would have had four, and maybe five if Beckham had been able to trade periods with another teacher. I took some Dramamine early this morning (which tastes terrible, and might not even be as effective as Bonine in my case), and managed to hold onto the contents of my stomach, so that was nice. Of course the medicine made me sleepy, and I slept off and on until about 3pm. It's weird, cos there I am, sitting up in bed (propped up on one of my folding chairs so I could sleep upright), and I feel fine. Perfectly fine. Fine enough to feel guilty about calling in to school. And then I try to move my head to make myself more comfortable, or get up to use the bathroom, and it's, Ahh, yes, that's why I called in.

For the curious, I suspect my vertigo is of the benign paroxysmal positional variety.
For the nosy, I've always taken the wait and see method of treatment. Every time I've had a bad dizzy spell, I've only been hard-core dizzy for about two or three days, and then less dizzy and more just lightheaded for about a week afterward. So it really doesn't make sense for me to try to treat it with head positioning exercises as described on that site, cos my symptoms go away too quickly.

So I'm in a weird funk. I've been stuck inside my apartment all day. I didn't go to school, I cancelled my English conversation class tonight, and I e-mailed the couple that I teach English to on Thursdays to warn them that I might not be able to have them over tomorrow. I'll decide in the morning if I'm okay for school. If I go, I'll leave early and take the train. I probably would have told my JTE by now that I won't be well enough tomorrow, but the second-years have interview tests, and if I don't get to them now, they'll have to wait two more weeks. I feel kind of cut-off from the world, even though I've been e-mailing and text messaging a bit this evening. I watched Fahrenheit 911 tonight. Boy, is that a bad movie to watch when you're sick. Well, for me it was. The woman that he interviews several times throughout the movie, she reminded me too much of Mom, and that made me really sad. And for anyone who cares about American politics, one way or the other it's gonna get you riled. I turned on the lights, which woke the birds up, so they've been keeping me company. My apartment is a mess (which is part of the reason why I'm reluctant to have the couple over), but I can't bend over to pick anything up. I've got my kotatsu blanket and rug in a pile in the front hallway, because there's nowhere in my apartment to store them while I wait to recover enough to put them into place. Yes, it's getting cold enough that I brought the kotatsu stuff from the Nita apartment. And I still feel like crap, of course. I can eat, but not much. So all of this has converged to put me in a somewhat depressed state. I'd go to bed now, if I could be assured that I'd sleep straight through the night; it's awfully hard to get a good night's sleep when you're sleeping upright. At least I don't have to move my head to use the computer, and the keyboard is kind of warm.

So! Enough of this pity party. Let me recount for you, in reverse chronological order, a summary of the last two weeks' events.

Sunday, Janelle and Orasa (the two other JETs in Okuizumo) and I went to a festival in Mizawa (a village in Okuizumo) with the Japanese class. There's an old castle that used to be in Mizawa, and it may even have been famous for something. This festival was to mark the 700th anniversary of the year the castle was built. We met the students at Mizawa Elementary (which I had previously not visited, so now that's 10 down, and Kamedake Elementary to go). There was a "warrior procession" of people dressed up like samurai and re-enacting what I believe was the introduction of the rifle to Japan, a re-enactment that involved many impressive bangs and pops, and a couple of misfires, too. I got sunburned. !! I keep forgetting that I'm not in Syracuse anymore.
After the festival, the three of us drove to Matsue to do some shopping at Uniqlo for warmer clothes—poor Orasa, from Thailand, thinks it's winter already. We picked up Mabel on our way into town, who had broken her foot the Sunday before. After Uniqlo we had dinner at an Italian restaurant next to Matsue Station. Not the one with the crazy clock, the other one.

Saturday, Janelle, Himene, and I drove to Matsue for lunch and to look for shoes (cos it's hard to find shoes my size in Okuizumo), and met up with Signe, Trevor, and Matt at Shoes AiLand. From there we went to the Friendship House in Izumo for a big games night. I played poker, and came away with an extra 1,700 yen (~16USD) in my wallet. Signe really cleaned up, though. We're going to have to watch her more carefully in the future.

Last Wednesday I explained the US Electoral College to my English conversation class. Whew!

Sometime last week Toothpaste Maniac told me how she thought it was strange that the Shimane JETs had held a fundraiser last February to raise money for UNICEF to help the areas affected by the big tsunami, but that we weren't doing anything to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I wasn't so certain myself, but I said, "When I ask for money for people in my own country, maybe it feels like I'm asking for money for myself."
"No," she protested, "nobody thinks that. Besides, there are other ALTs in Shimane from other places in the world. And the CIR in Okuizumo is from Thailand...."
"Very true. But maybe the Thai government doesn't have enough money to help all of the victims of the tsunami. The US government has a lot of money."
"But they aren't helping enough."
"Well," I chuckled, "that's separate issue, isn't it?" She agreed with a laugh.

Two weekends ago was the welcome party for all the new JETs at Mt. Sanbe. We had way too much food to barbeque, and not enough coal to cook everything that was brought. I, for one, managed to escape gastrointestinal illness. The cabins we stayed in were really nice; I want a house like that. I played games with some friends, then went to sleep and left Sunday morning. I ended up getting lost on the way back home. Not really lost; just I somehow got it into my head that Kawamoto was between Sanbe and Unnan. Nope, Kawamoto's clear on the other side of Sanbe. So I drove half an hour west before I realized my mistake and turned around. But the weather was beautiful.

The Friday before that was an enkai with the BoE folks. It was my first BoE enkai since the towns merged. It was an interesting night. I'm only at the BoE every Monday, and usually I visit elementary schools or kindergartens, so I don't actually spend a lot of time there (except for the summer, but everyone else is too busy to talk), so there were a lot of people at this enkai who were still very curious about me. One guy insisted that I visit Hiroshima City and Kyoto, then go back to New York and tell everyone I know about Hiroshima and Kyoto. This same fellow thought that Anchorage was in eastern Canada. "A-nkora-ji," he said. "What, Anchorage?" I asked, "in Alaska?" No, no, that wasn't right. So I spent the next couple of minutes trying to figure out what he was really saying before getting out my Japanese-English dictionary, looking up Anchorage, and showing him that it was, indeed, in Alaska.
But what really took the cake was my conversation with Mr. BoE Boss Man. He asked me how many boyfriends I had. "Oh, five or six," I said dismissively. "I can never keep track."
"Oh, I see," he said. "So, you have... travel friends... and, uh... eating friends... sex friends... and... taiko friends... how many friends do you have?"
I turned to my supervisor, who was sitting next to me, and gave her my best WTF?! expression. She laughed nervously. "I think... he drink too much." Yeah.

Edit Oct. 21, 2005: Actually, now that I think about it, it was Mr. BoE Deputy Boss Man who asked me about sex friends. Mr. BoE Boss Man talked to me, too, but his choice of conversation was much more respectable.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sauce Man!

Not much happening lately. Oh, well, there was something of an upset during lunch today. Kocho-sensei went up to the microphone in the cafeteria of Nita JHS and said something, and what he said caused quite a stir among the students. I didn't understand what was going on, and I figured I'd find out later, so I continued eating. I reached for my bowl of soup, but the girls I was sitting with said, "Stop! Emily, stop!" Huh? I turned back to where Kocho-sensei was, and now he was joined by a couple of workers from the food prep building (attached to Nita JHS) in their white caps. Something was wrong with the food? So I asked my JTE what was up. She said they'd found some pieces of grass in the soup, so we shouldn't eat any more of it. I'd already finished most of mine. :/ But the rest of the food was fine.

Later in the teachers room Kocho-sensei asked if we were all feeling okay, and we were, cos it was just grass, right? They wrote up a letter to be sent home with all the students explaining what had happened. So that was mildly exciting.

And plus I've had a headache. But that started before lunch, so I'm not too concerned.

Yesterday I had my first class with the 3rd years this semester. Beckham is the 3nensei JTE at Nita, and also the homeroom teacher of this particular class, so they were especially genki, considering the 3nensei are relatively reticent. I'd written out some sentences that followed a particular pattern (namely, "[Something] is [important/easy/difficult, etc.] for me, because [reason]"), and was reading them aloud to the class; they had to listen to me and figure out what I'd said. There was a part of one sentence that no one could figure out, except one kid who responded suddenly with the correct answer. "Oh," said Beckham, "You are so smart!"

But between Beckham's pronunciation skills and the students' listening skills, they thought he'd said, "You are Sauce Man!" "Sauce Man! Sauce Man!" they teased the kid, even after Beckham corrected them. Sauce Man was on fire yesterday, providing many correct answers, and every time he did, the boys around him continued: "You are Sauce Man!" He was pretty good-natured about it, though, and even at one point corrected them. "No," he said, "Shouyu (soy sauce) Man."

Every year there's a seminar in November for all of the ALTs in Shimane, as well as some JTEs. Last year it was Beckham's turn to attend, and he with a couple other JTEs did a workshop. I decided I wanted to see how this workshop turned out, and boy was I in for the unexpected. They did a model class where the workshop attendees were students, and Beckham played the ALT named—here's where he gets his nickname—David Beckham. He wore his favorite soccer jersey, and tried to act all cool and confident. So awesome. The workshop on the whole was pretty fun. I can't say that we really learned anything except for one possible lesson plan, but it was fun, and later other ALTs who'd attended thought it was really cool that my JTE had been willing to be all goofy like that in public. I was surprised; still waters run deep, I guess. The next time I was at Nita, I told Beckham how much we'd enjoyed his workshop. He prefered to forget it had ever happened.