Thursday, September 29, 2005

Urimaku Elementary School

Today I visited another elementary school where Tsukiori-sensei works. She was one of the teachers on the Stony Plain trip. She looked very healthy and energetic today when I saw her. I think her English is better after the trip, or at least she is less shy about it. I taught everyone in the school (all fifty of the) and also left for a period to visit the kindergarten class on the same grounds. I loved the architecture of the kindergarten/pre-school. A very impressive and super well-thought out facility, made totally of wood with huge windows. Needless to say, I found the kids very happy to see me and excited to practice their ABCs.

At the elementary school, Tsukiori-sensei had brought back chocolates and maple syrup candies from Canada for her kids. It was funny to watch the children make four bites of the little chocolates. I, of course, also partook. I find most Japanese desserts gross, not because their inedible, but because I don`t find them sweet enough. Their made for the Japanese Pallet, which mostly I think is much subtle, except they really like spicy things. But to continue, I normally eat only Original (sometimes called Kodomo, Child) POCKY. So it was nice to eat some Canadian sweets.

iFall Night in Shikaoi Inside the Usui's Home

I thought I was having a long day today until I bumped into some of the Shikaoi Stony Plain delegation at school and they looked both haggard and sick. What did you guys do to them? Actually, I think they are very tired. The women would stayed at our house, who I have not yet touched base with yet, have told me through Mrs. Usui how thankful they were for our family's hospitality. I hope to see them tomorrow or on the weekend.

I spent all today at my Junior High School, Urimaku Chu Gakko - from 8:30 to 5:30. Yesterday was especially fun, I met all my 34 grade ones at Shikaoi Elementary School. We have to meet in the Gym because its the only room in the school that can contain such energy. I was going to bring my camera but decided against it, it wouldn't had made a different anyway because I noticed later the battery was dead. Regardless, I will not forget my camera next time. Bringing my camera anywhere in school horribly disrupts the class - but the kids are so cute! It doesn't seem that anyone really tries to teach the grade one's English in any sort of organized fashion. They just try to play games in English and hope something rubs off on the 6 year olds. And tomorrow, I'm lucky, besides going to Urimaku Elementary School, I get to go to the Urimaku kindergarten. I can`t wait!

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Shikaoi Visitors have left the Building

Its an odd situation to hear that the Shikaoi delegation has left Stony Plain but are not yet back in Japan as I write this. By all estimations the visit went off without a hitch and everyone will come back tired but with a slightly small conception of the world in their heads. I am happy also; my supply of fall peanut butter being restored.

I`m off to the High School soon, in about 20 min, to do a presentation on me and Stony Plain to the grade 10 students that will be coming to Stony Plain in October. The students have also written some questions, which I have received an advance copy of, to put to a real Stony Plain person. Some of the questions are easy, such as what is a popular food in Canada (pizza), and what is my favorite food (sandwiches). Other questions are more difficult because the countries are so different and have different cultural barometers. Such as; what is a popular trend in Canada? I will say Ipod (am I right Sean?) but this question illustrates a couple of interesting points if you have some context. In Japan, a national focus is seen in all national media. Tokyo, and with in that, a small area of Tokyo, is credited with perhaps, most - if not all - modern cultural generation. Simply put; they made all the trends (for various reason on how the media is structured). In Canada, quite the opposite is true, with a strong value placed on individuality. This leads to deeper questions of "why", which I think I have some insights into (rooted in an extremely high population density), but I will have to leave shortly and so will pass over the details today. Regardless, I am looking forward to making a good early impression of Stony Plain as AETs Jeff and Chris have.

Tonite, I think Kevin and I are going out for dinner. BBQ I think. Should be a good unwinding. (for a Tuesday?)

While I`m Still Relaxing

I went a couple of times into Obihiro over the weekend. Once to shop and once for dinner with the Usui`s, I will expand this topic because the dinner was a good example of the differences between Japanese food in Alberta and Nihon-Sokuji. Japanese food in Alberta is not bad, sometimes it is even delicious, but everything is relative. The restaurant we went to was called "Cro Roku", roughly translated as black six, it is also the name of a kabuki play. It illustrates two things about Japanese cuisine. Firstly, that often the best food is not to be found in a big, flashy restaurant, but in a small out of the way place. In my experience, the more out of the way, the better; however, the reverse can be true, as anyone who has eaten at an expensive hotel`s restaurant can attest. For the record, there are not many expensive hotels around Shikaoi so the other type tends to flourish. Secondly, the ingredients. I don`t want to rub it in, but all of Japan is much nearer to the sea than all the Alberta and because of this they get better, fresher ingredients. And as the French say, if you start with good ingredients it will taste good. The Japanese also seem to take a lot more pride in the quality of their ingredients. This is quickly noticed in the fruits and vegetables in their grocery produce departments. The fruits and vegetables are biblically perfect, not a single blemish. It`s actually quite funny to see the over packaging on the fruits; its like there made of glass, all wrapped up in styrofoam and plastic. I don`t know what there selling as tempera in Alberta, but the tempera last night was delicious. I would have ate more but I didn`t want the Usui`s to think I`m a bottomless pit or a freak or something.

Shopping was a success but it does not offer much content to blog. Driving in Obihiro, near the train station, is more interesting. And I like to think I`m still recovering from the trip to downtown. Its not so much that the Japanese are bad drivers, its just that there are so many cars and the roads are so narrow that those two things compounded make for a jarring experience when driving downtown. I`m still relaxing. Directly upon leaving work today I`m going for a run. I`m very sore from work. Grade five is about the grade in my estimation that kids can really start to hurt an adult with their force, speed or weight. Having three kids on top of me makes me sore. Grade two and three kids, you can just pick up under an arm, but not the later grades. So, I need to get out for a run before I drop - asleep - on to my bed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some Quick Pictures

I have eschewed-- for today-- the long postings of past for pictures. It was the Chinese that said a picture is worth 1000 words. The above picture is my house at night. And below, is Shikaoi's town office, where Mayor Yoshida's office is (if one scrolls down you can see a picture of him and me). I must make an architectural point here and note that I find most of Shikaoi's other architectural examples much better than this building. I mean the tower thing is cool, but the main motivation of the exterior seems to simply be earthquake resistance.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Friday Morning of a Three Day Weekend

While I feel very settled now in Shikaoi, at moments I have even found myself with spare time to drink tea and read. Another sure sign of my comfort here is it that I no longer get lost walking from here to there. That was becoming quite distressing for a while.

I apologize for my merger posting the last couple of days. I have not been near a computer attached to the internet since Tuesday. I have been away from the office at school during the day and then in the evenings, out and about, making new friends and spreading good cheer (or relative chaos?). I arrived at home a little after nine last night after an extremely fun (and delicious) dinner of tempera with six people from my section at the office (minus Kevin, who has caught a cold). I also had the pleasure of trying for the first time Matsutaki soup/tea. Its soup, with shrimp and onions, but served our of an individual teapot. Matsutaki mushrooms are the worlds most expensive; the sky really being the limit on how much you can spend on this dish. It's a very delicate and rich flavor that is worth the money and impossible to desirabe. I also had the anxiety to try for the first time Albolony, also very expensive, and, in my humble opinion, slightly overrated. Even deepfrying something like squid or octopus can not, for me, save the dish. I will often at least try it, I know its not going to kill me; it is food after all and I see my other diners without pause devour it. But being an Albertan, the allure and enjoyment of chewing something for five minutes completely goes over my head. Luckily for me the meal started with sashimi and ended with some excellent tempera. A cultural point I have always found enjoyable is that the meal is always ended exactly at 9:00 PM. The meal may start promptly at 6:00 PM and than at nine, everyone gets up to leave. It's not like Canada, where, if your out, say, with the Scalzo's, you had better have your whole night cleared. If I had to make a stab as to why this is so in Japan, I would guess it is because they consider 9:00 PM relatively late. If I had to guess why this is so with the Scalzo's, I believe its in their blood because they are Italian.

At the beginning of the post and at the end are pictures from our soba harvest at Tsumei Sho Gakko. At the top you'll see an image of the schools chickens- free- walking around near the back of the school. Below, a shot of the kids.. harvesting... It's all rather self-explanatory. The school is very rural and naturally has a very agriculturally focused theme. I was very honored to be asked to help harvest the small school plot. I have been invited back to eat the soba we harvested at New Years in the form of soba noodles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


If you look up today you will see a full Harvest moon. All over the country in September, festivals are being held to celebrate the good harvest. Last week Shikaoi's. I missed the main part of the festival, the carrying around town of the Shrine, which is quite something to see or do, if you are lucky enough. Sadly, I was only able to take part in the evening activities because I was at work at Urimaku Chu Gakko that day. I saw my kids from Shikaoi elementary do a traditional dance.

Today though, at Tsumei Sho Gakko, we got down to the real business done this time of year- harvesting. After English class, and lunch, the whole school (eleven kids), myself and four teachers, all went out back to the school`s small plot of Soba, sort of a buckwheat, and harvested it. It took a little over two hours to cut it all down, collect it, and hang it to dry, but eventually the work was done. We are going to eat it in December for the New Year Festival. I had no idea I was going to be doing all this until, maybe, one minute before, and I probably could have bailed at 1 PM saying I was needed at the office; but I knew I would not be missed and the kids had a blast. The two littlest girls were too cute; somehow they had learned 'hurry up' in English and were adamant that we all comply, the afternoon's work moving far too slow for them. I was going to go for a run tonite, but after a English class held in the gym and an afternoon harvesting, that may be changed for a quiet night with a cup of tea and a good book.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I have wheels. I am Mobile.

This image is probably pretty self-explanitory. Its a picture of my car; my very first car. Its an early 90s manual Corolla, kind of grey in colour and very clean. Which I hope to keep that way. Just about to leave work for the evening, the sun was low and blinding. Behind me is the building I where the Board of Education is. The office, as we call it, does not take up the whole building. It's very hard to discrible what goes on in this entire sprawling complex, people that have been to Shikaoi will understand. There's always a lot of activities. Just last week there was an art exhibit in one of the main halls. I have no idea what it was about, but that is just par for the course here.

This picture was taken with Mayor Yoshida, at my welcoming dinner last week on the 12th. It kind of looks like I'm lording over him because I'm a good foot taller. He's a very nice gentalmen and is very proud of his town (and quite rightly I should add). I was kept very busy at the dinner with about three people asking me questions in Japanese at the same time. I also poured eveyone a drink (a Japanese custom showing respect). I did not have time to enjoy the great food that had been prepared, but I was warmly welcomed again later that evening by the english teachers. And would't you know, again on the 22nd I have another welcoming party. How long do you suppose I can keep this up?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Friday Blues

I got back from school around 1:30 PM and now I'm racking my mind, trying to find something to do. Even if I make the longest posting to date, I'll still be sitting here trying not to stare at the clock. The people at work seem to feel for me. There's a meeting going on about a fax that was just, just received from Stony Plain. I don't know its contents and I have not been asked to take a look, but the meeting is now going on its 2nd hour. It's the Friday of a long weekend! And though its very quite in the room, everyone is in a good mood. Yeah! Score! Kevin just passed me some stickers for my kids.

One thing to know about Japanese offices is that they are way over staffed. Most people have very little to do (or else one person is very busy and the others have nothing to do). There are a couple of reason for this. On the micro-scale, many people have a light work load just in case they are needed. An example would be if a very important official came to the office and created a stir. Things would need to be prepared and done while he was here. On the macro-scale, it is a deeply entrenched goal of Japanese society not to simply let the market take care of employment, but for society as a whole keep everyone employed with a living wage. You can fall where you will on the wisdom of such an approach, but I'm just trying to explaining why all this guy on the other side has been doing all afternoon is stapling papers together.

I don't know if anyone knows (or cares) what a typical day is like for me but I will try to describe in a humorous, engaging fashion. I must preface this topic with the caveat I never really have a normal day. The Japanese in Shikaoi have a chronic communication problem, with Kevin and myself normally on the problem end. While it is an inconvenience at worst, it's humorous and absurd at best. So while Kevin and I grip about it, we don't really mind, we expect it, prepare for it, and laugh about it. The end result of such absurd behaviour is that what I think I'm doing tomorrow is often changed by the time I get to work the next morning. If I think I have a free day at the office to do school stuff or post it will inevitably happen an hour in that Ikeuru-san will come over an ask if I would please like to go to such and such a place to meet with such and such. I grab my keys and off I go.

So what did I do today? The first school I went to was Kamihoronai Hoikusyo (Kamihoronai kindergarten). I was completely unprepared except that I wore loose clothes I could play with the kids in. I taught them isty-bitsy spider and right and left. I told them my favorite animal (cat) and my favorite drink (o-cha). We practiced my name (BU-RE-A) and smiling. The smiling was a big hit, and the pictures turned out great. Most of the kids were between the ages of two and five and had never seen a foreigner in the flesh before. Judging by their general reaction, my skin colour and complete lack of preparation was not a factor. We played a colour game, where I say a colour and all the kids have to run to an object of that colour in the room and put their hand on it. Complete loud chaos ensued. They especially liked my WHITE shoes and BLUE t-shirt. The BLACK piano stumped them though. A good time was had by all. Next time is not soon enough.

Next I was off to Kamihoronai Sho Gakko (Kamihoronai elementary School) which is within walking distance of the kindergarten. This school is probably my favorite. From the principal down to the first-graders everyone is super nice. The school has a very fresh atmosphere because it was placed in the exact middle of nowhere. Out every window is green. I think that this is the optimal place for a school because every lung full of virgin air makes one feel healthy. There is a gentle breeze that pushes fresh air inside through the open windows. Furthermore, a school here eliminates a mind numbingly long bus ride for the students who live on the many nearby farms. (Note: its actually only 20 minutes from the Board of Education Offices, however that is relativly far by Japanese standards.)

This school deserves a more detailed explanation of its composition. It has only 17 students in a school that in Alberta would hold 150. The number of teachers is also extraordinary, with one principal, six teachers, a lunch lady, a gardener, and an assistant principal/ administrator (this gentleman speaks very good English, and shout out to Drew, Sean and Lynnette, he is a 6th level GO player(???), and has traveled all over North America teaching it). Needless to say the school is absolutely hemoraging money and by every economic measure should be closed immediately. However, the school produces healthy, happy kids and, now having seen the school, I would lament its loss. Immediately upon arriving I was asked to join their game of dodgeball, which everyone, including the principal, participated in. The children were more than happy to tote me around, showing me the school. After, we had lunch, which included tomatoes grown right out back. (It also included some type of bean that I could not identify and thus, did not eat, much to the chagrin and joy of the students.)

And now, back at the office, were all having a good laugh at the expense of Masashi-san, whose phone rang in the dead silence of the room, exposing his taste in tacky tacky J-Pop music.

I'm Alive

Proof I'm alive. The picture makes me look kind of sketchy but it was done quickly-- very quickly. Mr. Usui and I ran to the biggest, most advance, electronic playground one could imagine last night so I could buy the smallest camera ever. It's Sony and only came out this month and man the price was right. Its all in Japanese which means its an added incentive for me to learn the language-- quickly-- so the next picture can be less sketchy.

This is a quick picture of the Usui's (minus their children, who are away at college) who are good good family friends here in Shikaoi. I won't get into details now but a discription of the image could be Angels Without Wings On Earth. I can't post at any length because I'm very busy doing stuff like what is found in the image below. I had supper at the local harvest festival. Its getting near the harvest moon tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm Quite Useless at the Moment

Its all I could really do pull myself to the keyboard and type a posting out. I spent the day in class-- at the head of the class-- in Shikaoi Elementary School. I mean, these kids are comically, chronically cute, but so energetic too; I'm just completely bushed. Luckily for me, no one at the office needs my skills as an art history graduate; which frees me up to post now.

...And one had better sit down for this next one: it's raining again. Not exactly the deluge we had last week, but still, its been raining all day, and will for tomorrow too. And its not a shower either, its rain. A bit of rain, that's all poetic and melancholy; it makes everything fresh afterward. But this, for an Albertan, is just depressing. Alas... Really reading what I've wrote it makes it sound worst than it really it. The people and children of Shikaoi shine-- all the time.

A heads up to those in Stony Plain reading my posts as the Shikaoi delegation leaves here early Friday morning. Most of the English teachers (here called JETs) in Shikaoi will be going. It's good English conversation practice for them, increases the number that can be relyed on to translate and creates fruitful links for the Stony Plain-Shikaoi twining. This trip bares on my life in two ways. Firstly, all the teachers I worked with today will be going. So everyone gets to meet them. And secondly, it means my work in all Shikaoi schools will most likely canceled next week.

Insight into Life in Japan

I wanted to name this section "Insight into Japanese Life" but really I have almost none. Its the curse of being a foreigner here and always being on outside- looking in. But I can try to paint a picture of what my life is like here; from the very very complicated recycling scheme to everyday grocery shopping. What's on my mind today is the television. It's one of the more extraordinary aspects of Japanese life because it is, to my eyes, amazingly homogeneous and materialistic. It's hard to describe what TV looks like here without being able to talk with my hands. I had been trying to read in front of the TV but I was attracted to its flashy colorful and loud presentation (distracted maybe a better word). I was helpless to look away while famous Japanese stars were dumped into water, shocked with electricity, or dressed up in women's clothes (the men). If you were ask me why, I couldn't give an answer. They talk amazingly fast on T.V. and I can't interrupt and ask them to repeat what they said slower. An interesting example to illustrate the shallowness and materialism of Japanese TV is how "Reality TV" bombed here. The public does not want to watch a bunch of average, nobodies on TV; they want to watch stars get covered in mustard. Japanese television is homogeneous in the sense that if you go around the dial at 8 PM you will see the same, whacked out game show/talk show, maybe even with the same people. To me, all the programs look the same. Some stars maybe made one or two movies five years ago, and now make a living being goofy on all the various shows. I'm doubting the usefulness of talkshow to describe the format. Thank goodness for the news and sumo.

I think its an important point to bring up that this is by no means the epitome of Japanese culture. I've met many here that simply hate it, and it's hard to judge people that know no other kind of television. The beautiful and profound architectural statements of the small Shinto Shrines that dot the area around Shikaoi make poor television and it is in this context that my comments of materialism and shallowness are made. One could never use the word "shallow" to describe Japanese Culture as a whole. In fact, I word reverse the statement and say that Canadian culture looks relatively shallow by comparison.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Just An Hour....

Even though I am leaving the office a bit early today, it's a bit of a wonder why I'm still here at all. There are two different reasons for this. Tonite, at 6:00 P.M., I will be having my official welcoming party. From my rather fuzzy position, it seems between 20 or 100 people will be attending. Their planning it right now beside me in hushed Japanese tones. I really don't think I'm worth the fuss but one cannot tell the Japanese that. Masashi-san told me I could go at 4:30 P.M. to change and get ready, which is perfect because I finished everything that needed to be done by 1 o'clock. I asked the two women I worked with if they needed any help but they declined that offer with a giggle. This Monday is shaping up to be much like Friday afternoon. In any case, the office atmosphere is always light, everyone is ready to make a joke (at the expense of my limited Japanese). The welcome dinner finishes at 7:30 sharp, for whatever reason, I still haven't understood that behavior. After the English teachers are taking us, Kevin and I, out for drinks. If you have never had the experience of being towed around by a group of Japanese; start by imagining your a really famous movie star, then imagine that by some miracle a beer glass that never empties is invented, next imagine the end of the world is nigh, lastly, remember you are in the presence of some of the kindest, nicest people you will ever meet. That will be my evening.

My weekend was spent at a workshop/dinner put on by the Tokachi International Education Circle (TIEC). It is a group of foreigners from all around the province of Tokachi that teach English. It is a very interesting group of people because, being so remote (literally being by the edge of the world before it drops into the sea), it is an area that attracts a very wide range of people. Many have been around for longer than 5 years and so are an excellent resource about such practical things as how to transfer money home and ideas for elementary English classes and non-sensical things like making a political statement by not paying your NHK T.V. bill (long long story). In anycase, a great weekend with some good hearty food. Shout out to Jessica and Nancy for their hard work.

This morning was spent going around to the various schools I will be teaching at meeting the principals. Basically, and this is going to sound a little dry, by you just meet the principals, what we call here the Chotto Sensei, and drink coffee while they ask you questions (How you are? How tall you are?). There's probably a proper Japanese word for this behaviour but I have no idea what it is. It's not that its a bad experience, they are really nice people, but the whole thing is tiring and jarring. Its hard to communicate and these are people you do not want, in any way, to insult. Some Chotto Sensei's are more forgiving than others, however, and it's normally not very hard to figure who is what. Tomorrow morning I will be visiting the two elementary schools we did not visit this morning and also the High School, where I will not be teaching, but I know the principal already, hes a great guy, and I am excited.

It was also the first time meeting some of the kids I will be teaching. I will leave most of the details of the children aside for a later, more detailed post, but I already love them. Individually, they are very shy, but get them in a group, and they become fearless. There's a Japanese word I would like to introduce at this point called GENKI that describes the energy and mood of the children perfectly. It is a word that does not easily translate into English, but it is generally taken to mean healthy and energetic in a way that only the word genki can.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Why Use Windsheild wipers in Sunny Weather?

Most of today was taken up by myself and Hasui-san touring the schools. We didn`t actually go in, we just drove to them. I will be teaching at four elementary schools and one junior high school. Its a weird situation to desirable but I will try to build a mental picture. All the schools are quite far apart and yet all inside the Town of Shikaoi proper. Japanese town are quite different than North American cities because they encompass the surrounding country side. So, the schools are situated in smaller hamlets inside the town of Shikaoi but are still about 10 minutes away on country roads. Its all very lonely because there is absolutely no one else on the roads around the main hamlet. You can drive almost the whole way and see no one. I wouldn't discrible it as desolate or lonely, if anything it really enhances the beauty. You never feel lonely because the area, compared to any countryside in Alberta, is packed with people. With a train ride or airplane trip of 1.5 hours you can be in a city of millions.

Husui-san is a brave passenger for riding with me to all the schools. We returned back with absolutely no problems, I didn't even stall the car once (picture to come). They drive on the "wrong" side of the road here. Shikaoi's empty roads are an excellent place to learn to drive on the left-side. I've had very little trouble ajusting, I think because of my time in Japan in 1999-2000. Even the lefty stick-shift is easy. One of the funniest things that happens is that I will often, instead of turning on the turnsignal, I will turn on the windshield wipers, because they are transversed in Japanese cars. I even find myself laughing out loud to myself when it happens. If accidently turning on the windshield wipers in sunny weather is the worst problem I have with driving on the left-side of the road, I won't worry. Kevin says he still does this.

My plan for tonite is as follows: find food. Right now in my house I have some bananas and bread. If I had peanut better, that was not the gross Japanese over processed stuff, I would make a sandwich. But, for today, that is out of the question. Instead, I will knock on the Usui's door and have some BBQ. I really need to spend some time getting my house in order, so tomorrow nite, for sure, I am going to stay home and finish unpacking. This weekend in Tokachi, the flat-area/province in Hokkaido, the area's AETs are getting togather for a workshop, dinner, party. Kevin and I are going to go. He's meeting his girlfriend (who is organizing the event) there and I am going to meet the other AETs in the local region. Details are still a bit fuzzy.

I think that is all the news for today.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Typhoon Picture

I wanted to post a picture of the amazing amount of rain we got in Hakkaido last night. But I just couldn`t any good ones and since this really isn`t an international news site I don`t feel oblidged to post one right from last night. However, the above image I found while searching was too funny, although it is taken from a hurricane here in Hokkaido last year. It`s pretty self-explanatory.

If you think I`m posting from a bunker underneath the Board of Education, while they do have one, its actually sunny right now and is expected to get very hot this afternoon. In the end it rained about 20cm in 12 hours. In comparison, if anywhere in Alberta got that much rain, that quickly, all heck would break loose. Our streets would be rivers and sidewalks just puddles.
Now compare 20cm here to 90cm further down south in Kyushu. Their having some major problems there, lots of flooding in low lying areas, and some major land slides. The land slides would not be such a huge problem execpt that with Japan being such a populace and mountainy country, inevitably, the rocks, dirt and parts of road slam into houses. 18 people are still missing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

TYPHOON: At work with too much free time.

For then I heard A voice say, "Build an ark, gather the animals two by two, and bring sushi." Okay, so I made that last part up, but it is raining cats and dogs here. Computer internet and jacket problems abound. I had no hot water until this morning at my house; really us Canadians have become far too attached to it anyway, and theirs a typhoon coming. Lets us blog!

To first give the reader a full view of what here looks like, I will introduce my surroundings. I an at work right now. To my left is Tomoko Yamaki, further left is Masashi Kagawa, kitty corner is Sanae Kon, furthest away is Hasui Etsurou (assistant section chief) and directly across from me is Shikaoi`s other assistant English Teacher (AET) Kevin, very nice American from Philadelphia. Let my quickly dispel any notion that he may be a stereo-typical American. He is well read and well traveled, having lived in Shikaoi now for more than a year, lending him an air of open-mindedness and insight into the workings of Shikaoi. He is actually out right now teaching class, were as I start next Monday in elementary teaching. The other other side of the room has another island of desks, their purpose is unknown, but they do have some connection with the board of education. I was introduced to them, but I forgot their names yesterday. I`m not stupid, its just that yesterday I was introduced to more new things then I normally have to deal with in a month. The real trick is to get them to repeat their name again, so I can add them to my cheat sheet, without them being insulted. Big windows in the room look on to a very green landscape and a small Japanese garden being soaked by rain. The room is a buzz with news of the appending storm. Minor Minor flooding and strong winds (50 km/k) are expected. I had been scheduled to visit a local principal this afternoon but that was canceled because he was not available. He is probably busy sand bagging. The atmosphere of the office is much more relaxed than I had expected. There is much laughing and constant small breaks for a drink or tea or coffee or smoking. I guess this is what they mean by small town atmosphere eh?

I will delay writing about my house because, as the Chinese say, a picture is worth 1000 words. It you cannot wait that long, I have posted a picture of the exterior that my father took in July. If you are still impatient, imagine the floorplan of your house, but half the size. The house has very clean wood floors and tatami mats. I am also the proud owner (renter?) or a Japanese bathroom, its not as technologically advanced as some of the over hyped bathrooms in Tokyo, but it is just as awkward. I will leave the details (complications?) of a Japanese style bathroom for another post. Recycling and Garbage is also another interesting topic which warrants the readers attention, but since it took 1.5 hours for Yamaki to explain it to me I will pass over it today.

Every single second thus far has been busy. I don`t mind. It keeps my mind off the things Ive left behind, turning the pain into something duller and more livible. This evening, right after work, I have made plans to go to Obihiro with our good friends the Usui`s for sushi. Its been five long years since Ive had Japanese sushi and I can`t wait. Because I`m now far away I will say this about Albertan sushi. While it by no means is gross or inedible-- I`ve eaten it often-- its just not the same. Read often, such up coming topic are to include: driving on the wrong side of the road and how to survive a typhoon.

Monday, September 05, 2005

6:51 AM so says my computer (9:51pm local time next day)

My first blog from Japan. This is as fresh as it gets. The trip over went about as smoothy as I could imagine, all the way to here to the hotel where there's free wifi internet. "I must blog" I said. A very funny thing happened in Tokyo, where I happened to bump into Jeff C. and Aruelli going the other direction. I shook his hand and thanked him for everything. Sorry for the fuzzy details right now: I'm half eating a riceball, half drinking some iced oolong cha and half thinking that Im dreaming. I think its time for a shower and bed. More info to come tomorrow from Shikaoi.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

OK, This is the Last Terrestrial Post from Alberta

The above picture will be my residence in Japan, it was taken by my father when my parents visited Shikaoi in July. The house is currently occupied by our good friend Jeff Cowan and his wife, who will be returning to Stony Plain the afternoon that I arrive. I would like to add that it is not 100% sure, (maybe about 99.99%) the contacts in Shikaoi may have changed the plan and neglected to imform me but I am treating it as for sure. More pictures of the inside will follow.

One More Day

This will probably be my last post from terrestrial Alberta. I have a little bit of spare time because the last load of laundry is in the drier. Above is a picture of a small gathering we had last night at the house with good family and friends. I'm rather perturbed at everyone having a party to celebrate my leaving. But in the end a good time was had by all. One more day... If you are wondering if I'm all packed because you might be the type of person that would leave it all until tonite-- I was mostly packed yesterday. I don't want to leave anything to chance. It is important to know in case you become faced with a last minute dilemma of what to leave behind because you ran out of room.

Cafe Select on Thursday night was a huge success. Shout out to Sue, Mike, Pat, Jamie and Lynnette. We capped off the evening in perfect style; running three blocks and seeing the Alberta centennial fireworks display. Which were great. Theres something very magical about fireworks to for humans. We've all been going to Cafe Select on Jasper Ave and 106 St. for years. Its very dark and loungy and has great atmosphere. It was the perfect choice.

I'm starting to get very excited about returning to Japan. It's been such a long time since I have been to Japan on my Rotary exchange. I've had to have great patience seeing many other Rotary exchange students return to their host country before I. But, this is the way I wanted to return, for a much great length of time. To be able deeply enter the Japanese culture and re-experience it has great value to me. In a moment of frank honesty, I can't wait to eat Japanese food again, real Japanese food.

My plane will be leaving at 9:40 A.M. tomorrow so everyone just think about where they will be compare to I.