Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not a Mukade

I had been dreading this workday, mostly because this particular school schedules me to teach all six hours. It shouldn't seem like such a big deal, since classes are only 45 minutes and in total it adds up to only a 7-hour workday. But when you factor in the onigokko during mid-morning break and recess and then all the screaming at the top of your lungs and acting genki on top of that, it makes for an exhausting day. No one's complaining here, it just makes for one of those days when you immediately collapse in the bed as soon as you walk in the door.

It's days like this, however, that I remind myself of the people who have to toil like mules until they die, and then I thank God for my overpaid position as the clown foreigner.

The kids actually didn't want to play onigokko today! Here's a transcript of today's exchange:

starry-eyed first-graders: "See-saw sukinaaaa??" translation: Do you like see-saw?
Me: "Dai-sukidesu!" translation: It is the thing that is loved!
starry-eyed first-graders: "Asobu!" translation: To play!
Me: "Ikimashou!" translation: Thank you, little darlings for not making me play onigokko! Let's go!

They led me to the see-saw, which--I might add--had a much safer construction and design than the ones I remember as a child. It even came equipped with a tire stop that was embedded under each end, to give it a little bounce every time the lever hit the ground. I tell ya, the Japanese always do it better.

starry-eyed first-graders: "Sensei wa nani kiro?" translation: How much do you weigh in kilos?
Me: ".... Wakarinai" translation: I don't know. I'm American, and I haven't figured out how to convert pounds to kilos yet.

Apparently, one Kim-Chi + 2 first graders is equal to 3 and a half first graders (one of them just kind of draped himself over the beam), all screaming, "Kohaaaiiii (scary)!" at the top of their lungs. You do the math.

As I was hanging my laundry tonite, I stumbled upon this on my balcony:
One of the very poisonous and quite commonly seen insects in Japan is the mukade. They're nasty little things, and last month I saw my first live one, scurrying and slinking a hundred miles an hour after a fresh rain. Up until then i had only seen dead ones lying flattened in the street. One of the first things my coworkers told me when I first arrived in Japan was to call an ambulance if I ever got bitten by a mukade, because the bites are nasty and can cause a lot of problems. The fear was instilled in me early on.

Anyway, all the legs on this little guy had me a little freaked so I ran to my computer to do some quick research. Turns out that this is a Geji Geji, a house centipede, and that they're actually quite harmless. I let it be, hung the rest of my laundry hoping that it wouldn't decide to jump on me (they're jumpers and they move fast), and we shall live in symbiosis. Ah, symbiosis.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Over Eighty Percent Survived

We spent yesterday in Kyoto City, and it was a fine day of temples and lots of shopping. We started out at Kiyomizu-dera, which is a buddhist temple famous for its huge wooden stage that was constructed using no nails. I know this in part to our tour guides, who accosted us upon our entrance, "Excuse me. We are university students, and we would like to give you a free tour." I suppose they were hiding, strategically stationed in the shadows, waiting for foreigners to walk through the gates with which to practice their English. We agreed, and the tour began.

Our tour guides were a boy and a girl who were students at Kansai Gaidai University. English majors, of course. The young man was sweating bullets (it didn't help that it was a million degrees outside), and was obviously very out of his element. "I am very, very nervous," he kept saying. It then became apparent that the young girl was his sempai (a mentor or trainer of sorts) and was there to supervise his progress.

Once we got to the large wooden stage which is the main feature of this temple, our female tour guide told us that the stage was very famous, and she asked us why. I looked over the barrier at the beautiful city scape in the horizon and the trees many hundreds of feet below.

JS popped off, "Suicide?"
Girl: "Yes! Suicide! People believed that if you jumped off of this stage and survived, you would live in paradise forever after. But over eighty percent of the people survived."

There was also another attraction that consisted of two large iron rods, one smaller than the other. We were told that the smaller one was meant for women, the larger for men, and that if you are able to lift the heavy rod with only one arm then your family would be granted with great wealth. Guess who had the guns to lift the rod? Booyah biyatches.

Then we enjoyed delicious melty ice cream, stalked maiko-san (geishas in training),

and partook in some conspicuous consumption. The boys usually left and sat outside while Julie and I shopped.

JS has been really worried people speaking French around me, but I quite like it. Even though I may not understand as well, it still feels much more familiar than Japanese.

The following scenes were snapped by my boyfriend who has talent and a photographic eye:

Meanwhile, the only photo I managed was this fuzzy one of some orange fungus :-/

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maple Moose

JS' sister, Julie, and her boyfriend, Louis, came in from Quebec the other night. I met them at the train station, and they came bearing gifts! This is the amazing necklace that Julie and Louis picked out for me. They really chose a lovely necklace, and it really suits me I think.

JS' mom also sent back some very sweet and lovely gifts, too. She included some nice white chocolates, some smelly good lotion and soap, and a maple syrup lollipop shaped like a moose.
No gift from Canada would ever be complete without something involving maple syrup :)

How nice of everyone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cat Spine

I spent this morning at one of my smallest schools. The fourth graders wanted me to play with them during their mid-morning break. Today they wanted to play Onigokko, which is basically Japanese tag. This shouldn't have surprised me, as they always want to play onigokko. The pain, though, is that I'm always "it" so I end up chasing the little buggers around the playground the whole time. Although I'm not the most athletic person in the world, I'm certainly not slothy either, so playing tag with 10-year olds never struck me as anything I couldn't handle. Except it's like herding a yardful of cats.
Any other day, I would have just played onigokko and braved it. But today my knee was slightly sore from my running. Suddenly when I heard "onigokko" it magically became sorer. "uuuhh...sensei's knee is injured. You darlings just go on ahead. I'll watch, or maybe participate in some other way. You need someone to keep score?" I tried to articulate the fake knee injury to one of the other teachers in my broken Japanese, and she wasn't going to let me out of it, "Walking OK. Now go." Maybe I'm just not a good liar.

After work I got a shiatsu, my first professional massage since I've been in Japan. Onishii-san was highly recommended by a Japanese friend of mine, and I jumped to make an appointment as soon as she asked me, "Are you ok with pain?".
After a series of short tests to assess my condition, he scribbled down some notes along with some sketches. One of the drawings looked like a hunchbacked stick figure. "You have tightness in your neck, and you have a cat's spine." News about my spine aside, I feel like a million bucks now.