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Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. (A t-shirt I read this morning.)

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 06/09/2007)

So, I went to my new “job” on Tuesday night with a little trepidation.  It turned out to be a lot of fun!  I left the dorms at 7:00 and walked to Makino station (about 15 minutes away).  A couple of limited express trains blew past while I waited and then I boarded the “sub-express” train.  Well, the train terminated for the night at the next station so I had to get off again and wait for the next local train to show up.  I arrived in Yawatashi right on time and there was Kishida-san waiting for me at the gate.More...

We walked a couple of minutes through the small hamlet of Yawatashi and I was amazed how dark and quiet it was.  She lives right next to a shrine which is on top of a hill and you can take a cable car to the top of the hill (about 1.5km).  Apparently it’s a pretty famous shrine and they’re going to be having a festival there sometime next week with lots of really good food.  I think I’m going to try to go if I can find out when it is.  Anyway, I met Kishida-san’s husband in the front yard and then we went up the back stairs to the visitor entrance.  I entered a small room with a table and chairs and a white board behind me.  Kishida-san poured me some coffee and offered me a tray of little cakes and then left the room.  A few minutes later, her daughter Aya and a man named Tokimori-san who is a friend of the family came in (Aya from the main house, Tokimori-san from the guest entrance) and we began.  They’re actually pretty good at speaking and understanding English.  We spent this first lesson with self-introductions.  We talked about Oregon and Japan and what was different about the weather.  We talked about famous places in both countries and places we’d like to go around the world.  We talked about Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail and smallpox and the alienation of returning veterans.  We talked about indigenous peoples of various countries and what happens to them when another culture moves in.  There were a few times where they just stared blankly up at me as I wrote words on the board but we got everything figured out (either by looking in the electronic dictionary or by having me try to explain in Japanese while making all sorts of ridiculous hand gestures).  Anyway, English is sort of their hobby and I felt like I was teaching a music lesson or something.  Tokimori-san works at a factory that makes “small power diggers” and he did a really interesting little dance while showing me how the diggers operate in cramped quarters.  Aya works in the library of a university in Kyoto at the media and copy center.  Anyway, it took over three hours to get there, teach, and get back, but it was really fun and it certainly beats not making any money.  I get to go again next Tuesday and we’ll start using some of the workbooks they have.  The workbooks appear to consist of dialogues and scenarios and I think I’ll be assisting them by helping their pronounciation and explaining what’s going on when they get confused.  Apparently they’ve been taking these “lessons” for years and their previous gaijin went home at the end of last semester so they’ve been searching for a new one.

I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before, but I found out the large chimney next to my dorm is part of a crematorium.  My friend Jennifer has been reading my posts and she told me what it is. Sure enough, as I was coming home the other day I noticed that the building is surrounded by a cemetary full of gravestones.  Hmm…

I went with Willy back to the crepe place last night and we had the cool guy all to ourselves while we ate.  His name is Takahashi (tall bridge) and we had a great time talking some more with him.  We both get kind of tongue-tied trying to talk to him but he’s very understanding and waits for us to correct ourselves.  At one point he asked me how long I had been studying Japanese and I accidentally said “2000 years!”  Hehe, it was a little embarassing.  But, come to think of it, whenever he tells us how much the crepes cost he says “400 man en” (~$40,000) instead of “400 en.”

I am embarassed by some of my classmates.  They are very loud and kind of rude to the teachers and other people in the neighborhood.  They talk all the time (even when the teachers are lecturing) and they make me very uneasy.  I’m not sure if they’re actually being loud of if I’m just becoming accustomed to thinking as a Japanese.  Anyway, I can see where some stereotypes of gaijin are born.  One of my classmates is a very large girl.  These desks are designed for Japanese people and I have never seen an obese Japanese person.  Anyway, I watched, horror-stricken, as she attempted to squeeze herself into one of the desks for class.  She folded the layers of fat in on each other and no matter how much I wanted to turn away I couldn’t stop watching.  It was quite a horrible experience.  But a lot of my classmates are really cool.  I keep running into Kyle, a really neat guy we met during the welcoming luncheon, and we plan to get together sometime and have some adventures.  It’s really fun to meet people from other countries and I’ve made some friends from Mexico, Australia, Finland, and Sweden.

I’m begining to figure out how all of the neighborhoods that I’ve explored in different directions connect to each other.  I think I’ve discovered a half-dozen cities around Hirakata so far and I sort of know the main roads that connect them.  It’s really fun to be walking along in a neighborhood and suddenly find yourself surrounded by a huge rice paddy nestled among the houses.  I was searching for a grocery store the other day and I met a cool old lady (under four feet tall) and after talking with her a little she gave me directions to the nearest supermarket.

As I walk to school I pass by the Komatsu Osaka plant mentioned in earlier posts.  They’ve been very busy shipping out equipment recently and I’ve enjoyed listening to the forklifts playing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song.  Across the road from the plant is a small empty lot where a group of people play croquet every morning.  It’s fun to watch them whacking the balls with their mallets on the hard-packed earth.  I forgot to mention that the Komatsu plant has tennis courts for its workers!  The big office building across from the public library has a basketball court too.  It’s fun to see how well companies take care of their employees here.

Tonight I’m going to an izakaya (all you can eat and drink for a set price bar) with Willy, my speaking partner Ryosuke and some of his friends.  I’ll get to meet and talk with more Japanese people and after we’re done eating and drinking we’re going out for karaoke!  I’m really excited!

I’ve got exciting plans for this weekend but there’s a typhoon coming…

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