Monday, August 2, 1999
Today was a day of getting things done. Met the girls for lunch at Royal Host then took them to Nagisakiya (a local department store/grocery store) to get stuff for their apartments. Getting the bed delivered to their place turned out to be an epic quest, looking for the right one, measuring, coming back, and then it took four employees to help fill out the order and figure out when the best time to get it delivered was!
Tuesday, August 3, 1999: The Truth is Out There
Another meeting with Tsuyama today. This one was too early too. I'm so lazy these days! Well, not really. I get up late, but that's because I go to bed way too late. We got our "Happy Coats"! They look cool, but it'll be a cold day you know where before I wear those happy shorts. I mean, they're called "training pants" and they look like women's volleyball shorts. He said the girls could wear their own shorts, but I think Glen and I will as well. We also met Lisa, who's another ALT from the States, she's from New York. Tsuyama really surprised us by telling us to tell the collected ALTs what to watch out for in the way of students and teachers at their new schools. I thought he'd want us to tell them (or not even tell them!) at some other time, when he wasn't there so he wouldn't feel responsible for the actions of those schools. It was weird telling all that stuff around a board-room-type table instead of a more comfortable environment. We didn't tell them everything, though... there are some things you still gotta pace people with. We can't just give it to them all at once... and some things you just have to discover on your own. The truth is out there.
Later I met up with some of the new ALTs at Numata Mansion. First I helped Ondria put together her bed and then we just hung out and had dessert. Kylie brought her really cool friend who is a 3rd year finisher. Y'know, I could understand every word she said (she's a New Zealander)!! You can tell that being in Japan has affected her speaking, but at least it seems she still retains her vocabulary, something many JETs lose after two years (let alone three!).
Wednesday, August 4, 1999
Not all that much going on today. Bummed around, studied, wrote, and talked to a friend of mine who lives in Kyoto. Don't you feel guilty when there's this friend who always calls you long-distance, but she's always the one to call you? You never call her/him? Dang, I hate that. Talked to her for about an hour and a half! Told her I wasn't going to go to China with her. She wants to meet up for this weekend, but because of the festival I doubt that we'll be able to. I was all set to see some golden temples, some quality Japanese theatre and some cool museums. She's something of an expert on Japanese art and culture and I was really looking forward to that. DOH!
Thursday, August 5, 1999
Today I'm dusting off some of old texts. Things that I've always wanted to do, to study, to learn, that I've let sit on my bookshelf. I feel like my mind has stagnated so much since university. Sometimes life is stressful here, but I don't exercise this muscle inside my skull all that much. In a way, that seems strange to do. I think I'll order some more books through Amazon too... things that'll help me get back into this. It's not that I miss Academia, but I miss being pushed. Pushing my mind. Thinking. I don't think I'll be happy unless I'm constantly pushing myself. I've been toying with the idea of writing for Dragon Magazine again... it's been so long. Haha! I've not written anything really for them in such a long time, but two of my articles are coming out in just a few months. Ironic.
For dinner I met Kristy and Kylie at this little Japanese place. The kind where you order a lot of little kinds of foods then you all just share those dishes. It's so much more social than Western-type going out and eating. I think we ordered about eight dishes in all. It was really good! It was raining hard when we left... luckily I'd brought my hat (still can't manage holding that umbrella when I ride my bike!, I think it's kindof dangerous) and my jacket. We talked outside the restaurant for a while and the rain died down a little bit. I made a break for it, but still was pretty wet when I got back.
Friday, August 6, 1999: God and the Devil in a Parisian Cafe/Trust No One
I have not been myself lately.
A dark cloud has loomed over me. The hand of my ambitions, which has enraptured and sustained me all these years, has reached out from behind me and grabbed me by the scruff of my neck. It has made the final call and demanded to see my hand of cards.
Why am I here? I ask myself constantly. Here, in this momentary wake, I feel as if I'm forestalling the inevitable. I guess I knew that when I left. Of course I didn't know what I was going to do when I returned, and I still don't know. And it seems I've found a place here for myself. For once, I've found a sort of peace. Something which has eluded me all my life. But do I leave all the grand designs of my life behind to wither away on this road of comfort I'm on now? I know that the longer I stay here the more difficult and impractical it will be for me to pick up those ambitions when I return. Things are coming to a head. A dramatic change will happen soon. The storm approaches.
End of Melodramatic Philosophical Introspection
A friend of mine broke up with her fiancée because she discovered that he had been going to the wrong kind of clubs, if you catch my meaning. After years of dating, the marriage date had been set and she discovers this. What a terrifying notion. You can't trust anyone. That kind of thing is much more acceptable and widespread here in Japan than anywhere in the West (I think), but that certainly doesn't make it right.
I've been reading a book recommended to me by my brother, Patrick, called Tale of the Body Thief. I've been thinking a lot about God and religion lately and it poses an interesting thought. One of the characters in the book has a vision while sitting in a cafe in Paris. God and the Devil are talking at a nearby table and the Devil is telling God how much he dislikes his job and couldn't he find someone else to do it and hasn't his term been long enough already? God answers that He needs him to continue the work and it's a great and important responsibility. Evil might be a part of the Grand Scheme of things, if such a thing exists, but isn't it an interesting notion that God and the Devil might actually be companions? Or that "Devil" might actually be a position or job which can be given or taken away? Making an enemy out of a friend on God's part for the benefit of mankind as far as free will goes. Such a contradiction. Don't want to dwell too much on that here, but just thought that was an interesting idea and thought about that today.
Saturday, August 7, 1999: Shiro Matsuri
I've sunken deeper today. The voices of my ambition and goals are more urgent today. Why do I feel this way?
Anyway, those voices picked the wrong day to make themselves be heard because everything else was being drowned out in anticipation of the festival. Today, me and the other ALTs don our Happy Coats and belts and march along the main street outside Wakayama Castle.
I had this anxiety all of today. I thought that I might see that man, the guy I stopped from abusing his wife on the street last week, while I was in the parade. What would I have done, if he had seen me and come after me while I was in the long line of dancers? Of course, now thinking about it, it probably would have never have happened because people here are so anti-confrontational and will go out of their way to avoid a scene or conflict. But I was on edge during the festival. I thought I saw his face everywhere. I really need to relax more. I need to chill!!
The festival itself was pretty cool. Of course it started wayyy late, but not because of any lengthy opening ceremony, but because my supervisor had gotten the start time for the festival a little wrong. First, we went to city hall and were urged to try all manner of Japanese food, some of which I partook. One or two people there were already drunk!! Couldn't believe it!
After the food we marched down to the starting line for the parade. People were in all kinds of costumes, but the most popular was the happy coats we had on too. (I'll have the Shiro Matsuri pictures up on my Festivals page soon!)
Nearly everyone danced the same dance (or a very similar variation of it), but there were a few people leading their respective groups who were dancing to a different beat. The dance we had to do was very basic and very slow moving!! It took us forever to go a couple of blocks! I guess I got the hang of it after a while cause a cameraman came and stuck his camera five inches away from my face!! AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! Talk about a close-up! Twice he focused on me for a close up! Just my luck, he picked me out of ALL the foreigners who were dancing. Haha! Oh, well. It's all good. I guess it's good for the locals to see the foreigners getting involved in community-type things, which was exactly the point of us going out there, but now everyone will see my smiling face all over the evening news!
Hey, Ma! I made it to the big time!
After it all finished, some of us stuck around the festival to have some shaved ice and looking at the booths and other carnival-type stuff they had. Headed back home just before the big rains hit.