Home > Japan, Pictures, School > Second week in Japan

Second week in Japan

08/17/2009

A rooster crows nearby (I think the school has a chicken coop.) Crickets chirp happily away in the trees outside, and all around me cone shaped hat wearing rice farmers work in the fields, burning weeds and keeping their little plots immaculate. Such is the life at 三保(Miho) elementary school, where even the principal speaks in heavy 大分弁(Oita dialect.) I have already been picking up a few words here and there, so I can kind of tell when people are speaking the local dialect or not. ひじい(hijii) is used in place of 疲れた(tsukareta) meaning “to be tired.” My Vice Principal also offers up よだきい (yodakii) meaning the same thing. だから(dakara), “because” becomes やけん。As an example, I can now create the sentence: 今晩バーに行きたくない。ひじいけん。(I don’t wanna go to the baah (that’s bar for those of you not from Boston) ‘cuz I’m wicked tie-uhd (tired). There must be much more, but these are the only two words I have been taught so far. It is my goal to be fluent in both Japanese and Oita-ben by the time I leave here. I do not think it is such an unreachable goal, since I am pretty much in the country, and the dialect will be spoken a lot more here than say, in Oita city. The city of Nakatsu may be the third biggest city in the prefecture, but that like saying the third largest city in Montana is…whatever the third largest city in Montana is. (does it even have three cities?) Calling it a city is really just an exercise in making yourself feel better about where you are living. A ten minute bike ride to any direction will land you straight in the rice paddies. (If you are not careful where you are biking, this becomes a literal expression, rather than a figurative one, by the way…)

Today I arrived to school on time for a change, though as usual dripping with sweat. It’s actually a nice day out today, 26 degrees Celsius, (that translates into about…mid seventies perhaps?) with a nice breeze, but biking even for ten minutes has me pretty worked up. Tacking on another 25 to that and you have a hot and bothered Dash. Yet another one of my goals is to bike to school without disintegrating into a pool of water. Part of this is me being out of shape. Another part of it is the bike I am using. The bike I am currently riding is lovingly called a ままちゃりや(mamachiariya) or something to that extent. That can basically be translated to: “Old lady bike”. I have to make every effort to make sure my knees don’t connect with the handlebars each stroke I make, and whatever suspension the bike does have (which is already close to none) is negated by the fact that my big ole body is pushing the bike’s limit as to its weight capacity. The spectacle of me riding the bike has both foreigners and Japanese staring and giggling as I huff and puff and wheeze by. At the moment, it is my only form of transportation to and from school, so I have to man up (not easy on an old lady bike) and push on. Friday is pay-day, however, and this upcoming weekend is going to involve quite a massive spending spree, complete with a new bicycle, a couch, some padding for my floor (I mean bed) and whatever else I can think of that I need. If I haven’t spent all of my money by then, I’ll look into buying an electronic piano so that I can play again. I am also buying a few choice pieces of furniture from Emily, who is going back to New Jersey in two weeks. (Good riddance, she’s a damn Yankee fan! The first time we met at her apartment, I was wearing a Red Sox jersey, she was wearing a Yankee shirt. Completely coincidental, but hilarious none the less. The first words out of her mouth were: “Oh, shit!” She then proceeded to inform me that the Red Sox had just gotten swept by the Yankees, and that she was feeling pretty good.) Also, it will involve getting someone a bit more proficient in Japanese (aka a Japanese person) to help me set up internet in my apartment. I have been very lax in getting that set up, because it has been kind of nice being without it. Besides, I haven’t spent enough time in my apartment to really make use of it. Now that I am slowly settling into a routine it will become much more useful.

Conversation goes on around me at work. They’re quite talkative here at Miho, which is nice, but I understand so little of it it’s quite frustrating. They aren’t talking to me, just to themselves, but I do my best to listen intently, picking up what words I can. The women are generally easier to understand, but it doesn’t help if you don’t know the words they’re using! 🙂

I’ve started a Japanese book to keep all of my new Japanese words in. The past week I have been getting my bearings so much I haven’t really been studying Japanese, though some might say that being in Japan and using it on a daily basis is studying enough. Even though I use it every day, vocabulary acquisition is fairly slow so far, so I am going to try to make a more conscious effort to write down the things I hear. I will update you on how that is going. Maybe I will make an extra page on the blog so I can keep it all online, too! That way you all can study along with me! Yay.

This past weekend was party central here in Nakatsu. On Friday we had the New ALT party, and we went to an Indian restaurant. (Nakatsu apparently has quite a substantial Indian population, and by that I mean more than 5.) The food was quite good, and I met one of my fellow teachers there. Kevin, my predecessor, of course knew her better so they chatted for a while, and then she and her family bought us a bottle of wine! After dinner we headed down to karaoke. Around one in the morning I called it good and went home, but as I understand it some of the people went to some other bars and such and didn’t get back until dawn. The foreigner drinking culture is quite well established here, as was to be expected. On Sunday was another party, this time a goodbye party for Emily who is leaving in a few weeks. Originally slated to begin at 11, I got up early-ish and went to the gym with Natalie. On our way back, we were informed that it would not start until about four. We quickly made some calls and found out that some other people were going to the beach in Beppu! It was a really nice day out so we tagged along. Beppu is a good hour away, and is the 温泉 (onsen, hot spring) capital of Japan. I can’t remember the exact statistics, but I believe something like 80% of Japan’s onsen are in Beppu? That sounds outrageous, so maybe I just made that up. Let’s just say there are lots of 温泉. They also have a few nice beaches, though Oita prefecture being in a bay, the water is warm but there are no waves, whatsoever. The beach reminded me more of the beaches in Holland. Small, sea-shelly, and pretty dirty. I somehow managed to get a blister on my big toe from running around in the sand. Nice.

While we were at the beach, we noticed some rather odd behavior. There was a group of four young Japanese men who would periodically exit the water and stand, at amazing attention and in a straight row, in the sun for about 15 minutes. They would not talk, they would not look anywhere, they simply stared ahead and stood. It is our belief that they were sunbathing. Whether or not this is a traditional Japanese ritual or not has not yet been discovered. Whether it is more effective than simply lying on the beach on a towel in relative comfort is also a mystery. Never the less, this is what they did. For 15 minutes they would stand on the beach, and then return to the water where they would once again stand, splashing themselves with water every so often. While in the water, however, they would stand in a circle. After having cooled down in the water, they would once again exit and perform their bronzing ritual. The joke here of course is that they never turned around, so only their chest was getting sun.

Let’s not get on their case too much, though, because at least they were sunbathing! (We think) In a country that idolizes whiteness, where blond women are constantly complimented for being so beautiful because they are so white, these four were true rebels. (Perhaps in an effort to make sunbathing a bit more mainstream they were using a tactic of extremity, going the extra mile to look strange, thereby in context making normal sunbathing a lot more appealing?) We will never know. Unfortunately I was not forward enough to openly take a picture of them, so you will have to use your imagination to envision the scene I just described.

Here are some pictures of the weekend’s activities:

David, Monique, Natalie, Matt, Joel at the bottom, And Stewart completing the circle.

Takeya and Kevin, me predecessor

Condom vending machine. Stop the AIDS!

Hang glider at the beach

There were palm trees!

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