I am in a strange place. And I don''t mean Japan. This is the first time in my adult life when I have no plans. I slacked off in High School to get to college. I worked hard in college to graduate. I graduated and then searched for a job and prepared to come to Japan. I came to Japan and got settled in. And now I am working harder than ever before, except this time I don't have any goals. I don't even have any vacations planned since I used up all my vacation time as sick days (darn it). It is a very strange place, and a little spooky. What if I get stuck here? Still, I don't want to be in a rush to find a direction, cause I have a feeling that the direction is going to find me real quick.
Alright, back to business. As I stated before, this was a full weekend. So lets start things off with a quick statement: if I could be a teacher at the grammar school I go to on Thursdays and Fridays permanently, I think I would. It is the best school I have ever seen because it is staffed by the best group of teachers that I have ever seen. All of them know that their job is important, and they all give their best. The administration is accessible and kind. Nobody dislikes anybody else. It is basically a really good team that fits really well with my personality and is a wonderful workplace. I am learning a great deal from all of the teachers there.
So, one of the teachers just passed her test to become a full teacher, so all of the other teachers threw her a party on Friday. Now, it so happened that on Friday I had already agreed to go to Chau's (one of 4 English speaking foreign women in town) birthday, which was scheduled to be held in Tokyo that very same night. So when I was asked if I was coming to the test passing party, I agreed, but stated that I would probably have to leave a little early so that I could get to my friend's birthday party. The other teachers seemed a little depressed when I said this. I promised that I would bring a cake to make up for my lack of attendance. Well, that next day, the birthday in Tokyo was cancelled so I could stay for the whole Enkai (office party). I didn't really need to bring a cake anymore, but I promised that I would, so I did. When I showed up, I announced that the party had been cancelled and that I could stay for the entire time. Had a good meal, served my cake at the end.
during dinner my phone rang with an e-mail, but I failed to check it. On the bike ride home I remembered that I had gotten an e-mail, and got off my bike to check it. It was from Chau telling me that she was celebrating her birthday after all at Cafe EN. Well, as luck would have it, I had stopped my bike 4 feet away from the door to Cafe EN. I looked over and in the window, and there everyone was. So I went inside to celebrate for the second time that night.
Unfortunately, I didn't end up spending that much time with Chau. One of the women sitting at the bar heard me speaking Japanese and realized that I could actually communicate fairly well. We struck up a conversation. Then somehow the topic of my age came up. The girl tending the bar overheard that I was 24, and came and joined the conversation. It turns out she is 24 too. I asked her where the young people in Shibukawa hang out and she said "here". Then, somehow, things got a little bit odd. For some reason the bartender and I started to play all of the games that I had been learning in preschool: rock, paper, scissors with your legs, "Alupusu", Achi Muite and so on. I think I'll be visiting Cafe EN again.
Well the next day I got up way too early and got on the train to Tokyo. Keiko had called me up with a problem. She and her 2 of her friends were scheduled to take an English exam on Sunday that included an interview, but they didn't have any one to practice with. Since I have been missing Keiko, I heartily agreed. We planned to meet in the afternoon. So in the morning, I paid a call on Manabu, who once again cooked for me. Another delicious dish that he can add to the menu of the organic Soba shop he is going to open in Puako someday.
Then, having nothing else to do, we went to an aquarium.
I never see these guys when I a diving.
Doesn't this look like a cool job! How do you get a job like this?
Unfortunately for Manabu, due to my lack of sleep I was a little crabby.
After the Aquarium, we went to a very small Middle Eastern Art museum. Then I went off to meet Keiko and her friends in Shinjuku. Shinjuku, by the way, is ridiculous at 5:30 on a Saturday. Not only are there littlerally millions of people passing through on their way home from work, but there are tens or thousands of others out on the town enjoying their Saturday night. And it is a maze that is also several levels high. Basically, it took me 20 minutes to get from one side of the station to the other, and I didn't even get lost. Finally, I met up with Keiko and her friends.
I didn't catch any of her friends names, unfortunately. They were both nice guys though. Here is Keiko in front of the building where she works in the job that she hates.
Here is the desert we had.
This was described to me as the biggest clock in all of Shinjuku. When I asked where the biggest clock in Japan was, the reply was "Shinjuku?"
So I spoke only English, which is a first for me since being in Japan. Usually, my day is filled with about 30% English, 65% Japanese, 4% gibberish that is accompanied by communicative facial expressions, and 1% total failure. Another strange thing happened on the way home, by the way. I guy standing next to me on the train just passed out and fell backwards. The ambulance came and everything. Kind of scary, but reassuring to see how people reacted. Rather than assuming that he was just drunk and ignoring him, about 10 people, Keiko included, sprung into action to help him.
The next day I went to Akagi. All of the Shibukawa ALTs had been invited to what I thought was a pottery and soba making festival that was being put on by the police. As it turned out, the police organized a thing that was only for us so that we could make pottery and see soba being made.
Here is my pot. I am very proud of it because it is the only one that the teacher did not alter, meaning he thought it was a good pot.
Here are the teacher, Brick (my neighbor) and Steve (from Honolulu). In the background are the signs for the "Crime prevention committee". I think the whole point of the police doing so much with us was so that they could get a picture of us with those signs in the background some sort of promotional purpose. Foreigners committing crimes is a big deal in Japan, and not because it is common, but because people worry about it.
The master making Soba. Manabu's was better. Way better.
Me cutting soba.
This, by the way is a really cool architectural feature. It is a fire pit in the entryway to a house.
And this is the neatest Bento I have ever purchased. It came in a clay pot.
Well, that was the weekend. Maybe it doesn't quite deserve to be called adventure, but it still was fun.