Monday, September 29, 2008

The perks of living in a small town

I left my umbrella on the bus Friday coming home from one of my elementary schools. Today it is raining again so I take a different bus to my junior high school. I have to take my beat up broken umbrella and get pretty wet, but as soon as I get on the bus this afternoon the driver tells me, in English no less, that he has my umbrella in his office. Then he stops the bus, calls the office, and tells them to expect me. When we got to the station he got off, pointed me in the right direction, and now I have my good umbrella back. Good thing because it is supposed to rain again tomorrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Here are the pictures from the Tahara Festival. It was tons of fun.

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There are three dashi floats in Tahara, each one dedicated to a different local shrine. Drummers sit in the bottom while girls with flutes walk behind. The music is sedate while they walk down the street but it quickly picks up when they have to turn a corner, to inspire the men pushing and pulling it. Every ten minutes or so they stop to take a rest while the puppets on top perform traditional Japanese dances. Several of my students were up front, carrying flags and holding onto the long ropes that attach to the float. They were so excited to see me.

At Tahara Castle they had food booths set up and a large stage where they had dancing. One nice older man bought me some flavored ice and then asked to take his picture with me before showing me over to where the dancing was starting. All part of my celebrity status here in Tahara.


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Other than the dashi floats there are several others that wander the streets throughout the day as well. This one had many of my students helping to pull it. The floats act as their own traveling party so the festival is never really in one place at a time but moving around town. They stop and perform like the dashi floats, first with two cute elementary school girls doing a fan dance and then some drunken men dancing to a pop song. The party continues into the night.


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On Sunday all three of the dashi floats come together at one of the temples where a special service is held. Large fireworks are carried around town and then shot off in the evening. The festival ends with a large fireworks display. I went to a party hosted by City Hall Sunday evening and then got VIP seats for the fireworks. Because it was still warm, I jumped at the chance to wear my yukatta, or summer kimono. At one point, they let me help make mochi. Using a big hammer, I beat at ball of rice. They do that until it sort of resembles taffy and then add different things for taste like sesame.

All in all, I had a great time. It was very different than the festivals I'm used to in Cincinnati, which are generally parish festivals that consist mostly of rides, beer, and gambling. I'm glad I had Marie with me though to scan the newspaper so we knew which floats would be where and when. Maybe next year I'll don my own hoppi (blue vest everyone is wearing) and help pull one of the floats.

Click on the links for two short videos of the dancing and floats.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Typhoon Masamune

My first ever typhoon hit today! It sounds bad but it really means that I got to come home from school early and I am banking on choir practice being cancelled tonight. (Only in Japan do you get choir practice on a Friday night. I mean c'mon!)

Here's a random fact: in Japan they give their typhoons numbers rather than names like we do in America. While trying to explain this to one of the second grade classes, we decided to name this one (#13) after one of the genkier students - Typhoon Masamune.

After class, Masamune came up to Nathan and me and said, "Typhoon Masamune is strong." He flexed his muscles.

"Like you?" I asked.

"Yes. Please be careful."

So here I am, being careful - drinking tea and eating cookies while sitting on my couch in my pajamas.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Couch!

I took my bike up to the shop yesterday, huffing and puffing all the way up there, only to find it closed. I'll admit, there was some cursing. But then this cute little old Japanese lady next door told me I could leave it, it was locked up after all, and said she would tell the owners I was coming back for it the next day. Then right as I was walking away the owner came out on her way to the grocery. So I left it in their safe keeping for the night.

I went back today and they already had the old lock off. I picked out a new one (no key for me to lose, just a combination to remember) and presto-changeo I had it screwed into place 10 minutes and 2,000 yen later. Woohoo!

But the best news is I have a couch!!!

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See that lamp on the floor? 900 yen. Oh, recycle shop, how I love you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I have figured out based on my monthly spending that if I stay on here another year after this one I can save enough money to pay off my student loans in full and come home debt free. I paid off quite a big chunk already this summer. This is with me going to Hong Kong, Thailand, and possibly Beijing this year. (Yes, my job is made of awesome.) So updated plan is stay here two more years, then apply and get on Peace Boat for a 4 month trip around the world. Then come home, apply for the World Peace Fellowship and study International Relations in Argentina OR get a job making some money, hopefully at some college or university working with international students and managing study abroad programs. Maybe move to Chicago. This is the long-term plan. For now. At this very moment.

Because the long term plan says I will be here a while longer I want to make my apartment more homey, which based on the total lack of comfortable surfaces around here means buying a couch from the second hand shop. Now I just have to figure out how to get the couch from the shop to my apartment. Favors will have to be called in I think. "Friend" who likes to use me for English practice only will have to make himself useful here soon.

Even shorter term plan is finding the lost key to my bike lock. It's not looking good though. I'm afraid I'm going to have to trek up to the bike shop and have it cut off. Luckily I can get to all my schools by walking or bus, but I will want that bike sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back in Japan

I am back to school today, teaching through a haze of jet lag and hayfever. I have three elementary school visits this week, one of them a completely new school for me. I'll have to do my self-introduction there this week, so instead of getting ahead with lessons with the other two, we are doing a review game at the two schools and my intro and something I've already done with my other students at the new one. This also conveniently saved me lots of prep and I can run on auto-pilot. Good because my brain isn't functioning at its highest capacity right now.