everything can be a metaphor

24 09 2007

As a writer I’m having a lot of difficulty finding the fine balance between too wordy, and lacking in description. So I, per usual, apologize for this post—it’s been a busy week/weekend, and I’m feeling somewhat disorganized.

Thursday, the kindergarteners took a trip to 自動車学校 (jidousha gakko, “driving school”). My recollection of driving school is riddled with memories of absolute boredom and fear of being in the car with the instructor again. Mr. A forced me to learn how to parallel park by “feeling” my way on a rainy day in a car with no rear defogger. So what the hell are kindergartners going to do at driving school? Watching a mannequin be completely mangled and have its foot disembodied by a speeding car. Fun! There was probably more to the lesson than that, but I certainly didn’t understand anything but the damaged dummy.

On Friday, because the high schoolers have midterms next week, the teachers let them study on their own, which resulted in the only English lesson being the exchange of equivalent phrases for “studying the backs of his/her eyelids.” I ended up teaching a few mini-lessons about random subjects: the differences between male and female brains, the application process to the JET program and why trees’ leaves change color. A friend once referred to me as “the guy” who explains everything. I wonder if that ever gets annoying to my friends.

I spent the rest of my weekend with about 30 other Hokkaido JETs on a campsite in Makkari, home of “the Fuji of Hokkaido.” It was a ton of fun, and a (literal and figurative) breath of fresh air to be outside for three days straight. A lot of people weren’t too fond of the cold nights, but one of my most favorite things is crawling into my bed or sleeping bag and isolating myself from the world outside (even if I’ve got people literally inches away from me).

Unfortunately, most JETs’ response to the cold weather was to drink the cold away, which resulted in a wild party that did little to break the stereotypes Japanese have of Westerners. To be fair, we were supposed to be on our own campsite, but the reality of it was that certain JETs among us were blasting music until 4:00 A.M. with tents full of Japanese families not 100 meters away. Not to mention the mess we left behind: cigarette butts, bottle caps, wasted firewood. I think when we actually left, it was all taken care of, but there was still plenty of time to see how disgustingly sloppy we were. I always learned, when camping, to be completely anal about keeping your trash with you (what you pack in, you pack out). While for some people the excuse was that this was their first time in the woods, other people made noise and left a mess as an unapologetic retaliatory response to the campsite staff’s mistake in having us right next to other people. Appalling. Disgustingly appalling.

Missteps aside, the highlight of the weekend was climbing to the top of the dormant volcano, Mt. Yotei (1898m), and being able to see literally for 150km in almost any direction. The pictures do little to show the grandeur of it. It took my breath away (again, literally and figuratively) to be hundreds of meters above the clouds and look down at buildings and ski slopes and realize how insignificant it all is. I also had the best hiking partner ever. Our conversation never stopped for 7 hours and spanned everything from our love of mixed nuts to our shared interest in etymology (we are English teachers, after all). Between climbing to the top of Hokkaido and finishing the Yom Kippur fast the night before, I felt like a brand new man.

As I was driving back home, I couldn’t help but notice the smell of autumn. I realized, for the first time in a long while, that I’m looking forward to fall.

PICTURES (click to enlarge):

loading into the car
kids getting ready to experience driving

poor doll

so battered

giant feet

I am huge

internationalization

A reminder, I’m in Japan to internationalize

skate park

when is it a good idea to skateboard and drink? at this bar/skatepark

a hint of fall foliage

a hint of fall foliage on Yotei-san

materia-like ice

cool ice (pun intended)

materia in a natural state

final fantasy vii fans will immediately think of materia (everyone else see the previous caption and laugh again)

the view from the top

from the top of Yotei-san looking northwest towards Kutchan (note the color of the clouds)

lots of wind

gusts of wind, not hair gel

mountain dog

apparently dogs climb mountains too (damned cute ones at that)

radio man

radio man at ~1895 meters

obligatory

obligatory top o’ the mountain photo

campsite

that small red circle is our campsite; to get an idea of how high we were, check out the four full-sized tennis courts in the middle of it

the mountain crew

the mountain-climbing JETs with whom we rendez-vous’ed at the top

across the crater

look at the tiny people across the crater

random beautiful sunset

on the drive home: 親子岩 (oya ko iwa, “parents and children rocks”–left to right is dad, mom and child)

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2 responses

27 09 2007
Nell

Zach, Japan agrees with you; you look great!

Also, your horrific example of how disrespectful people can be doesn’t surprise me…which is sad.

7 12 2007
Darren

Hey
I’m going to Niseko on the 20th of this month and I want to check out that skatepark bar. Can you tell me the name of it and where I can find it.
Thanks
Darren

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