Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tanjoubi Omedetou!

Me and surprise parties just don't go together. Two years ago my friend Marie tried to plan a surprise birthday party for me but she scheduled it on a Tuesday - the same day as my choir practices at the time - so when she asked if I wanted to go to dinner with her I told her I was busy.

"Oh well I'm planning a party for you and I already booked the place so can you skip chorus?"

The answer of course was yes. I can always skip choir practice for a party. Especially if it's for me!

This year she almost got away with it. I thought we were having lunch and then going to have a bath today but I had music practice with our mutual friend Masako yesterday and she gave away the secret. Just as we were leaving Masako said she would see tomorrow at Marie's house party.


Aaaaand surprise ruined.

Masako felt really bad about it and emailed Marie right away to apologize. But I don't really care. I just love that Marie tries to throw me surprise parties and that she cares enough to convince me to stay in Japan longer so we can take one last weekend trip together (to my dad's chagrin.) I'm going to miss all my friends in Japan but Marie most of all.

Birthday Party 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

O saki ni shitsure shimasu

As you may or may not know the Japanese have a lot of set phrases that are polite to say throughout the day. Living alone, I don't get to use the ones for leaving and coming home but I do have to say the ones at work. For example, I say a loud "Good morning!" or "Ohayogozaimus" to everyone in the teacher's room every day.

When I leave I say just as loudly but somewhat apologetically, "I'm sorry for leaving before you" (osaki ni shitsure shimasu) Then they respond with "Wow you worked hard today!" (O-tsukaresama deshita) Or sometimes they just say sayonara. I actually get kind of offended when I don't get an o-tsukaresama deshita when I leave. I mean I know I'm just part time and leaving before it gets dark but still I taught 4-5 classes so I deserve a "you worked hard today" goodbye.

They say o-tsukaresama at other times too. When a train arrives somewhere they thank you for your hard work sitting there patiently while the conductor drove the train. The hair stylist tells me thanks for your hard work after she has washed my hair, which always confuses me because shouldn't I be saying it to her instead? And a teacher told me that after I finished washing my hands the other day. She was waiting for her turn at the sink so it's possible she was being sarcastic about how long it takes me to wash my hands but I couldn't be sure. I've encountered very little sarcasm here that I'm unsure it even exists. But who says thanks for your hard work after washing their hands? I mean really.

Anyway, I was explaining all of this to my dad the other day - the ins and outs of Japanese greetings in the workplace and how they don't say things like "Have a good weekend!" on a Friday evening when they leave work because they know they will all be back on Saturday morning. They don't even say "Have a good night" because apparently no one should want to be anywhere other than at work. My dad pointed out that we would never apologize for leaving early in the US. We're much more likely to say "See ya later suckers!" as we waltz out the door at 4:59 on Friday afternoon.

He asked me if I ever smiled when I said "sorry for leaving before you."

"Oh no," I told him. "You have to look like you feel awful about leaving them behind to do all the work. You can't look happy about it."

There is no "See ya later suckers!" in Japanese although if you did translate it it would be something like "O-saki ni suckas!" which for some reason makes me laugh. Maybe it's the thought of my uber-polite coworkers shouting the word suckers and looking happy to be going home that is ridiculous enough to put a smile on my face. The only problem now is that since this conversation I have a mental picture of me shouting O-saki ni suckers! as I leave the teacher's room everyday to go home. It makes looking apologetic hard.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

For the record, just because I can swim 1200 meters doesn't mean that I can run around for two classes playing tag without feeling like my legs are going to fall off. Which is exactly what I've done the last two days and exactly how I feel at the moment.

Told my elementary students that I'm leaving at the end of July and we only have two more classes left together. Most of them didn't seem that sad but maybe that's because they're 10 and they don't really think about the future. The teachers have been really sweet though and I know I'll be crying buckets when it's time to say goodbye.

Back at junior high school tomorrow. We have exchange students from Indiana and Kentucky visiting so it will be nice to have someone to speak English with. And two weeks from now a delegation from Georgetown is coming to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the sister city relationship with Tahara. As the year-round representative of G-town I am not only going to the ceremony/reception but I'm also singing a solo. (Amazing Grace - because that's symbolic of international cooperation...)

People from the same delegation are coming around to watch me teach at Takamatsu-sho. That means I'll have to dress up to go to elementary school, which sucks because this time of year I try to wear clothes I don't mind getting dirty and sweaty since just standing around is hot and my teaching style usually includes a lot of me jumping around and acting like a clown and then playing games that have me running until my legs feel like they're going to fall off.

With any luck they'll actually replace me with another Georgetown College graduate and I won't be the last of my kind. No one tells me anything though.

Now my main concern is convincing the Board of Education that they shouldn't charge me to haul away everything in my apartment but that it should be left to the next ALT (unlike me who had to buy everything new.) I'm trying to appeal to the Japanese dislike of wasting things. I've used the word waste at least twice in every conversation regarding this topic. So far all I've gotten is that they have to talk about it and they'll let me know. I can't decide if they are really talking about it or if this is their way of saying no. It will be nice to be back in the land of yes means yes and no means no and by that I mean America.

Only six more weeks to go!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Japanese medicine

There is a reason I have my mom ship me my allergy meds from the States and that is because I don't like taking things when I don't know what's in them. But sometimes I go with convenience over complete understanding. Especially here in Japan.

I ran out of both zyrtec and benadryl two weeks ago. My mom had just sent me a package so I didn't feel like bothering her for another one so soon so I went around the corner and asked the little old lady at the pharmacy to give me something for itchy eyes and throat. She picked up a box and very kindly read it for me to confirm that was what I needed and then she even threw in a free vitamin drink that tasted a lot like cough syrup.

I called home afterward and tried to sound out the ingredients on the back of the box while my mom translated them into real words. If you've ever tried to read words written in katakana then you will understand what this conversation sounded like.


"Pseudoephedrine. That's a decongestant."

There's also belladonna in there along with some caffeine. Yesterday I started noticing I was having vertigo and dizziness. I'm sitting on the couch and suddenly the room will spin. At first I thought it was because my ears have been stuffy. It still could be that. It's happened before when I haven't consistently taken my decongestant. Fluid builds up in my ears and my balance goes out the window.

But I took two sudafed this morning and I'm still dizzy. I also took another one of my allergy pills. I'm starting to think I'm having an adverse reaction to the belladonna alkaloid in the allergy medicine. Actually another call home to Nurse!mom brought that out as a possibility. Either way I stayed home from school. Riding my bike and teaching 5 classes didn't seem like a good idea when every 10 minutes or so the room shifts position. At least I don't have hallucinations...that's another side effect of belladonna. Although that one might be more fun that this.