14 11 2007

It smells like propane heaters everywhere, which must mean winter (or propane) is in the air. There are snow-capped mountains in my backyard. Having never actually been so close to them real life, I spent a good chunk of my Saturday wandering towards them; only stopping when I was lost.

On to more observations of life: of all the places you could be a visiting team, Japan would most definitely be the worst. Well, except if you were a team of Jews in Iran or something like that. The homogeneity of Japan is even reflected in sports. In the World Volleyball Championship arenas, it’s been ridiculous. The cheering is literally incessant. And it’s not a raucous hullabaloo. It’s organized. Nippon! (clap! clap!) Nippon! (clap! clap!) They’ll never jeer the opponent, but the contrast between the cheering after Japan scores and the absolute silence when the opponent does is jarring. Tonight, it’s Japan vs. America. There will be lots of silence. The end.

You’d never see something like that in America. Even if it was another country visiting America, the cool thing about America is that there will be people from the other country, wherever it is. And it’s also ok (though ill-advised) to be the one person rooting for the away team. I have fond memories of two Giants fans managing to get 12 Phillies fans kicked out of a game just by instigating them. But it was ok for them to do that, and that’s different.

This was a week of free things! From the dry cleaners, I got two free squash. From my neighbor I got about two pounds of potatoes. Lately, the potatoes in the market have been puny, so getting these monsters was quite a pleasant surprise. Sunday night, when my heater stopped working, my supervisor invited me over for dinner. Japanese is a really fun language to speak because of all the onomatopoeia (yes! I did that without spell-check!). Our dinner was “shabu shabu” – the noise the meats make when you fondue them through boiling soup. Other favorites include “waku waku” (boiling water), “goro goro” (bumming around the house), and “kuru kuru” (twirling/calling someone crazy—think of the gesture where you move your finger in circles near your temple).

I keep getting honked at on the road. It’s a new thing, and it’s really nice, especially given the doubts I was having when I wrote the last post. I guess when you’re running 40 miles a week, people are bound to see you. My personal favorite is the “super enthusiastic kid but skeptically hesitant parent” combo.

Last Wednesday, the junior high had its annual tako (giant kite) flying festival. Although apparently until this year, it was more of an annual non-flight festival. But this year got four of the five kites airborne, and boy did those things take off—probably around 100 meters in the air. It took an entire class of students to get each one up. I guess it’s challenging to keep the under control; one kite attacked someone standing around peacefully watching. Someone tall. Someone with cat-like reflexes, which saved his head from being cut off. Someone named Zach. Out of nowhere, there was this giant thing flying at the back of my head and I narrowly escaped my demise by dropping to the floor (though I still took a good blow to the back). Good thing it’s made of paper and bamboo, or I’d have been in a world of hurt. Funny that even inanimate Japanese things can single out the one foreigner in the crowd.

There are two sides to every coin. One week I can complain about never fitting in here, and being the odd one out for all eternity, but this week it’s a nice thing. I imagine next week, I’ll be irritated by it in some way.

One last, unrelated to being a gaijin note. Last week I was assigned a project by the board of education to translate the web page for our local mountain (which, I learned, is a national monument). Cooler, though, is that I’m doing this for foreign correspondents in Japan who will be coming to my town next week in anticipation of next year’s G8 summit (in Hokkaido). The emphasis is the environment, so with rising temperatures directly affecting our mountain’s unique flora and fauna, this tiny town has achieved the fame to put it on the map.

N.B. – This winter vacation I’m traveling around with a friend of mine and we’re finalizing our choice between Beijing and Taiwan. Any input on any of those cities/countries would be greatly appreciated!

PICTURES (click to enlarge):


my new snowboard

random torii

a random drive on a cold day led to this

fall in the fore, winter in the aft

two seasons at once

cool, old bridge

a cool, old bridge

weird weather

weird weather

my backyard

the view from the back of my house




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