Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Another quick day at the office. I arrived there after rehabiri (physio), which was about midday. Physio was the same as usual: it hurt and I left with my arm feeling funny. I wasn't worried about the wierd feeling for too long though, because I went straight off for an x-ray which showed that my bones are still looking straight and nothing seems to be out of place. I briefly met my new supervisor, Kanaya sensei, before he left for a meeting, but it's not as if I have to suss him out or anything because I've met the guy several times before and I know he's kosher. He used to work at Itayanagi koko and was Sarah's supervisor there.

After eating my cup-noodle, kindly prepared and served to me by Majima sensei, the Sake specialist (Majima sensei broke his arm the same day I broke mine, probably due to too much Sake, but his fracture wasn't quite so critical) I looked at a few emails and a couple of news websites, and then Kudou sensei asked me if I wanted to go to the welfare office to sort out my hospitalisation payments. It looks like the welfare office is going to pay a fair chunk of the bill, but I'm still left with about 10 man (500 pounds) to pay. Like I said before, this will be reimbursed by the insurance company but I don't know how long it will take. I've been told two weeks, but that sounds a little bit optimistic to me. After we finished at the welfare office Kudou sensei dropped me back at my apa-to so I could spend the rest of the day chillin again. What a nice guy. I'll miss having him to turn to, but I'm looking forward to school life with my new supervisor, Kanaya, even though I'm sure he'll soon get pissed off with my inability to deal with insurance claims in Japanese and all sorts of other things like that.

Aki came around last night while I was doing some ironing and she soon got infuriated trying to help me with it. I've just got a little travel iron you see, and it doesn't get very hot. Anyway, she offered to do it all at her house using her mum's flashy iron, and, of course, I couldn't say no (it's very rude to say no to people in Japan, you see - phnarr, phnarr; )

Saturday, March 27, 2004

OO baby, I've just come back from a night of frivolities with the maniacs at Hiroko, my school. No, not really, but I did have a good night with a few of the senseis at the official farewell party for the outgoing teachers from my school office. Tonight was the farewell enkai for everybody in the office who will be 'traded' to another school this academic year. It was pretty cool, especially cos it was free and I could get pissed and stuffed for nowt!!

After the school party (enkai) I met up with some other JETs who had also just left their respective enkais and I decided that it was a really good idea to get even more tipsy. We went to the *international* bar and then went to a bar called Genya for the finishing drinks.

The best thing about tonight, the thing that made me cry a little bit, was the closing ceremonial sing song and the ritual wailing that happens at all the big enkais that I go to. The sing song generally involves everybody joining arms and making a circle around the tables at which we are socialising. I can't really say much about the song itself because it's in Japanese, but it's the 'ye olde' school song and it's a song that sounds like brotherhood, sisterhood and a shared sense of suffering during hard times. I will learn the lyrics and their meaning before I leave Japan. After the sing song there took place a ritual that I remember happened last year when folks left to go to different schools and workplaces. This was what made me grizzle a bit. One of the more ambitious members of the teaching staff, the office creep, who usually acts out the ritual, did his stuff in front of the fifteen departing senseis who were stood on the stage in front of everybody, which was a bit like the Maori hukka that the Kiwis do.

It was great, but then somebody prompted our principal to do the same thing. Our principal, of sixty years, who has been a long term veteran of Hirosaki koko since he was a wee lad (about twenty five years including his time as a student there), ended his career at the same place that he grew up. A man who is no taller than the frailest of the current first year students, and who bows at least one hundred times a day, stood in front of everybody and wailed, flinging his arms about, bellowing out the ritual chant of god knows what to all of us. It was a cultural experience. It was almost as if he could bellow and bellow until he collapsed on the floor. I could never imagine this kind of thing happening at a teachers party back home. The sense of knowing and belonging that I then understood of the teachers at my school hit me all of a sudden. It made my eyes water, so I went off to get drunk with my friends.

I had an interesting night.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A fun time was had by all last night at the English department annual enkai (party). I arrived there with my schools equivalent of Gilbert and George, namely Terayama sensei and Kudou sensei, the ichinensei teachers. These two guys make me laugh and while they don't physically look like Gilbert and George, they dress just like them and act like two semi-eccentric peas in a pod. Right now the schools in this prefecture are trading teachers for the upcoming academic year, and two English teachers are on their way out

There is Tohoru sensei who is moving to the position of kyoto sensei (vice-principal) at Kuroishi koko next academic year. His special moment from last night was announcing, in English, that he would soon become 'chief of sexual harassment' - then, all of a sudden, he forgot what he was going to say and how he could express himself in English and just left it at that, hoping I would understand what he meant. I did understand what he meant, of course, which was that he would be given the job of tackling sexual harassment in the workplace at his new school. Look out Shelby is all I can say!! I told him that the ALT at his new school is a tall, blonde Canadian and he started licking his lips and rubbing his hands together. Somebody must have given him a nudge under the table because after a few imagination-led moments he jolted upright and continued the conversation about his new job. He's going to be sorely missed in this place though because he's been here for fifteen years now and is a bit like a piece of the furniture.

Of course, how could I forget about the coming departure of Mori sensei, my dear friend with whom I have taught so many enjoyable classes. Not really, he's the one who hits kids in the face while they're already crying their eyes out. He's a nasty piece of work and I can't wait to see the back of him. He smells like toilets as well.

And the new teachers will be.... I know one of the replacement teachers coming next month, and I'm happy about it because he's a really nice guy. The other, well, who cares. If I don't like them I won't go to their classes. They'll soon get the picture.

All in all, last night was a really good enkai, my favourite moment of which was when I told Kudou sensei about my first encounter with wasabe (Japanese mustard) at my welcome enkai in 2002. I had never eaten it before so I just took a big (2cm.sq.) lump of it and plopped it on top of a piece of raw fish and stuck it straight in my mouth. When I told Kudou sensei this he laughed so hard he started making noises and tears came out of his eyes. I've never seen the guy laugh so hard, he's usually very quiet. He told me how he was very suprised by the behaviour of local people while on a transfer programme in England. He went to a CAMRA real ale festival in Norwhich where people put their pint glasses down on the floor next to the urinal while they peed. "We Japanese find this kind of behaviour very strange" was what he said. Then I started making noises and tears came out of my eyes. He also expressed unease regarding the soapy taste of all his meals cooked by his host family in England, who never rinsed the dishes after washing them in thick detergent and leaving them on the side to dry. "You get used to soapy potatoes after a while lad", I explained.

Another day in the office with bugger all to do. I'll probably go for a kip in the tatami room this afternoon to kill a bit of time though.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

I went to school this morning, even though it's Saturday, and I also went to the onsen near my school afterwards. I've been to the onsen three times this week since I got the go-ahead from my doctor and I have found that it helps loosen up my muscles a bit, which is a very nice feeling. I went to school today because there was a basketball match between my school and Hachinohe high school. Suprisingly, my school won both the boys and girls games. I thought the girls were better than the boys with a more organised side and better skills. On the way home, after the onsen, I went to Sukiya for lunch - always a favourite of mine when I'm in that part of town.

Nothing planned this weekend so I'm just going to take it easy. Since I broke my arm that's all I've really wanted to do in my spare time though. I've got a book, I've got music, I've got instant noodles, I can go for a walk if I want to; what else could a cripple ask for?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Here is a pretty interesting article from the NYTimes. It's about foreign identity in Japan and China. You know, I'm really looking forward to visiting China just to see how the people there deal with foreigners. It can't be the same as Japan, surely. Read the article if you've got the time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Just got back from beer-te, the 'kind-of' international bar in Hirosaki where a few of the local JETs decided to celebrate Paddy's day. It was pretty good because I got the chance to drink Ale (even though it's from the bottle), which I don't often get to do. Paying the bill was wierd, and we managed to get loads of beer for a third of the price. The checkout girl made a mistake; either that or she just took a natural liking to me. I'm finishing off tonight with a bailey's and milk in the true Irish spirit. God knows what my head will feel like tomorrow though :(

Monday, March 15, 2004

Last night I watched another K1 fighting tournament on TV and encountered my first ever viewing of the legendary Bob Sapp in action. This man is arguably the most popular lunatic in Japan, and last night I found out why. The fight, for some reason, only consisted of one single five minute round and from about three seconds after the start bell was tolled Bob was on the floor, spread eagled with his Mongolian opponent between his legs. He kept his head snuggled between Bob's gigantic tits. It was truly sublime to watch, and the sexual pose between the twenty odd stone (1 stone = 14 pounds) American beast and the Mongolian of half his size lasted the full five minutes. From time to time the two men punched each other, akwardly, in the head, and on an imaginative level it looked like one of those wierd and aggressive animal mating rituals. After the five minute round Bob got up to be announced the winner.

But of course, he's got to win because he's the coolest guy in Japan. I've heard criticism of Bob Sapp before because of his contribution to the false stereotyping of foreigners in Japan, but he's not the only one. I've met a lot of JETs (mostly guys) who revel in their stereotypes because they like the attention Japanese people (mostly Japanese girls) give them. And it isn't necessarily the responsibility of the foreigners themselves to dispel these stereotypes. Japanese people don't really have an easy time understanding individual diversity and perhaps rely on stereotypes more than people in other countries that I've been to. Then again, Japan is probably the most homogenous population I've ever known at first hand.

In other news, I went to physio again today and had the nurse hurt me again. Yesterday I moved akwardly and my arm went wobbly so I'm anxious about my x-ray tomorrow. I just hope the doc repeats what he said last week: "eito..., eito..., unto saa..., anou..., eito desu ne....... sutehburu".

Saturday, March 13, 2004

I'm going to Jenny's tonight to watch Office Space on her fancy little DVD machine. I don't know what will happen after that, but I had a nap this afternoon when I got back from physio so I should be able to stay awake for the duration. I bought presents for Aki and Terayama sensei as well. Aki, because tomorrow is White Day (Valentines day for girls), and Terayama sensei because he gave me a gift of money while I was in hospital. At physio the nurse put me in a lot of pain again trying to stretch my arm. It's entirely necessary though if I want to get back into shape.

I'm a bit fetched with the reports of terrorist attacks in Spain. Does anybody remember last week when a similar bomb went off in Iraq killing a similar number of people? I was in hospital when it happened, so I was out of sight from media coverage, but there was very little talk on all the news websites I visit when I came out.

Enough about politics. Yesterday I actually finished the book that I've spent the last eight months reading. I've been sloppy getting through it, but the length of time it's taken me to read it has kind of accentuated the length of time covered by the storyline. It's a story about the lives of around twenty people over a hundred year period. Most of the people in the book are members of the Buendia family, who live in a town called Macondo. Written by a guy called Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it's given me a lot of inspiration. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the name of the game.

I'm actually back from Jenny's place now. I took time out from when I first started this update, and after watching Office Space I started to feel drowsy and a bit uncomfortable, with my arm the way it is, so decided to head home. Taxi style. Nothing more to do or say so I'm going to bed.

Oyasuminasai (good night).

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I got the day off today because I had to go into hospital for an x-ray. My supervisor fixed it so I could spend the rest of the day chillin as well, because with the high school entrance exams going on there really was nothing for me to do. I walked to and from the hospital twice which was good exercise for me. When I sat down to talk to the doctor about my arm he seemed more interested in the arm-sling catalogue that I had been browsing through. He pointed to the different designs, muttering things like "dou kana? Ikaga?" (How about this one? What do tou think?) I quickly pointed to a design so he could order it and get on with the x-ray analysis. After repeating "Eito ne" and "Jaa" (erm, erm...) several times whilst looking out the window he simply looked at me and said "stable". I smiled and then left after a couple of bows.

The purpose of the second trip was to try on my smooth new sling. I was undressed (to the waist) by a guy who I'd never met before, and after he strapped me up with the arm-sling he redressed me. Before I could leave he spent a couple of minutes fussing about trying to get my cardigan straight like the other (female) nurses do. It was a bit wierd, but he was helpful.

I'm listening to Coltraine again today. No, not Rosco P. Coltrane from the Dukes of Hazzard: John Coltraine, the Jazz musician! The 'Africa Sessions' are going to carry me into an evening at Genya (little restaurant with a psuedo-Mexican menu), where a few JETs are gathering tonight. Looking forward to my first glass of lager in over two weeks (maybe, I really can't remember exactly when I last had a drink). I've got to do some hygiene work under my arms first though, because when I was in physio today I suddenly realised just what a stinky bugger I've become over the last 10 days. The poor nurse had to wear a face mask!

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Well, I went off to the hospital today as planned. I didn't get an x-ray taken like I thought I would, but the doc spruced up my stitches with some brown oily looking gunk and I did the physio session as well. My lower biscep is the area that needs most attention, but the nurse reckons that when she's done with me I'm gonna look something like this. I can't wait!!

I had to ask Steph to call me a taxi this morning (thanks Steph) because it was snowing outside and my phone-talk in Japanese holds much to be desired. I don't want to walk in the snow because of the risk of me falling over. I fall over quite a bit at the best of times, which doesn't really bother me because I'm usually drunk when it happens, but if I fell over now it would really screw things up. Also, having only one arm for balance increases that risk. Walking anywhere also takes so much time; I suterued the gomi (took out the trash) today and it took me about 10 minutes. It usually takes 2.

Enough about my arm! I'm not doing anything tonight (saturday). Aki and I were going to get a dvd and also do some evening shopping at Uni qlo (clothes store), but we had an argument and she went home. We're both to blame!!
So, another night with my computer methinks. I've just noticed there's a boxing match on TV so I'm gonna watch that now. Ciao.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Yeah, so I have a good bit of spare time at the moment. Today I downloaded a batch of Placebo songs and entertained myself that way. I got a phonecall from Kudou sensei, my supervisor, and he told me that I could use some government scheme to pay for 80% of the remaining bill and the leftover from that would be the responsibility of the insurance company. Kudou sensei has just arrived and he's looking through the papers right now. I hope it works out ok.

I didn't get to sleep until 2.30 am last night because my arm felt akward, slung up the way it is. I now realise that the pain killers they gave me in the hospital afforded me the ability to drop off quite easily, even if I did wake up in pain when they wore off.

Going back for an x-ray tomorrow, so fingers crossed my arm isn't recovering into some screwed up position. Physio as well, with the young ladies in tight white suits. Yosh!!

Oh, I just found out that I have a large sums worth of titanium in my arm, not steel, as I had assumed until now. Thinking about it, steel and bone marrow probably wouldn't sit too well together.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

OK, so I came out of hospital today with a bill for 230,000 yen (1200 pounds). And for those of you who are wondering, that's after the hoken sho. If anybody out there knows about the JET insurance policy please tell me about it. If you've already claimed it, how exactly did you do it? Stick any info you know of in the comment box. I know, my supervisor should be able to help me with everything, but I've already depended my tits off on Kudou sensei over the last few days so I want to give him a bit of a break. He's been an absolute champion!! Oh yeah, the head of dept. also came to see me in hospital and he gave me an envelope with 2 man (100 pounds) inside, like it was the least that was expected of him. He's an amazing example of humanity at all times, even though he does grind me when he drinks his soup through his cheeks.

If the hoken sho (Japanese medicare) accounts for 70% of the bill, that means my little three day spell in hospital altogether comes to roughly 77 man, or 770,000 yen (3,830 pounds, or, 7,000 USD). Can you believe it? The insurance company will of course fork out, but the only sure way to avoid nasty medical bills like these is to take my advice and don't snowboard over the cuckoo's nest. Hospital wasn't too bad in retrospect. I got really frustrated with the temperature they keep in there, as I usually do with Japanese public spaces. I tried to explain to the nurse that I get hot headed really easily, and she ran off to get a thermometre. The best thing about my stay was the physio, where I got the chance to exercise my knackered arm. I've got to say that there are some extremely patient women working in there and I regard them as pure salt of the earth.

Back to work on Monday. I'm looking forward to being a part of something again. Actually , I'll never really be a part of anything at work because I'm an ALT, and I'm sure other ALTs reading this weblog will agree that we have a funny old relationship with the working environment in our schools. At least I can kid myself that I'm being useful in the office though.

Also, I've looked into upgrading my blog so that I can upload photos from the internet and such, but the site support group replied saying that they aren't offering upgrades at present. As soon as they do I'll be onto it to try and make this blog a more interesting read.

Jaa ne