The difference between insanity and genius is measured only by success.

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 11/09/2007)

It has rained almost every day since I came to Japan.  My poor little pink child’s umbrella tries its hardest to keep me dry but I have to admit it’s not really big enough for a guy like me.  Tonight I went to my English teaching lesson again.  I arrived at 7:30 and the lesson didn’t start until 8:00 so I figured I had some time to kill.  I walked over to the river and stood in the middle of the bridge watching the water go by underneath.  The rivers really go up and down depending upon whether it’s raining or not.  Well, I decided since Otokoyama was right next to me that I might as well try to climb it in the dark and the rain before my lesson.  So, I struck out up the hill.More...The crickets were going like crazy and the rain on my umbrella and on the leaves made it almost as noisy as my previous trip during the day with all the cicadas and crows.  I had noticed on my previous trip that there were lights all the way along the path and figured that it must be open at night also.  The lights do indeed work but they make the surrounding darkness even more ominous.  I passed a businessman coming down as I was going up.  “Konbanwa!” (Good evening!) we said smiling at each other as we shared the secrets of the forest.  My glasses began to steam up and I took them off and put them in my pocket, figuring I would appear stronger to whatever might be hunting me in the darkness.  I made it to the shrine on top of the hill and, let me tell you, shrines are freakin’ awesome at night.  Holy smokes!  There were just a few lights on and there were all sorts of dark, foreboding buildings surrounding me as I stood in the gravel and stared around feeling small and insignificant.  Well, I didn’t have time to stand and oggle so I turned right around and headed back down the mountain.  I came to a fork in the path and paused briefly to consider which was the right path to take.  I couldn’t really read the signs in the darkness but one path was lit and the other one wasn’t.  I hesitated, tempted to take the dark path in case a fox spirit was trying to trick me, but decided it would be unwise to walk down a steep stone path in the dark when the stones are slippery from the rain.  I really didn’t want to slide down the mountain like the rivulet of water that raced along next to the path.  So, I took the lighted path and carefully made my way back down.  I kept looking over my shoulders, expecting to see a tengu dancing along behind me and mocking my every step, but none appeared and I made it safely to the bottom.

I arrived at my lesson just in time and had a really great time.  Kishida-san made coffee and brought out sweets and we sat and had a very pleasant social conversation for the first half hour (“free talk”, they call it).  We talked about our weekends and both Tokimori-san and I went hiking last Saturday.  Aya went to a department store and participated in a “monitor” session where she talked with some people for three hours about the new product they were offering (a three-seasons coat) and about what was good or bad about it and whether she would buy it or not and after completing this session she received 7000yen credit to use at the department store.  Sounds like a pretty cool deal.  She said she likes Nike brand and went to buy a running watch (with lap times and a stop watch) afterwards.  We talked about how big my feet are and Tokimori-san showed me a list of temples in the Kinki region that he had visited and temples he wants to visit.  He’s visited sixteen out of the thirty-three so far.  After that, we got down to business.  Tonight I got to see what a lesson from their English books was like.  It was a newspaper article from some North Carolina newspaper about Hurricane Daniel (the fourth hurricane of the 1997 season).  I read the first paragraph aloud to them and then each of them read it aloud to me in turn.  After that, each of them translated the article into Japanese.  Then I would read the next paragraph and they would follow suite.  It was fun but it took us the whole hour to get through the one page article.

Apparently there’s a memorial placard to Thomas Edison in Yawatashi.  I saw a sign about it and asked my students and they said that Thomas Edison used bamboo fibers from the forests of Yawatashi to make the filaments for his light bulbs.  Wow!

You really know you’re a foreigner when you’re the only person on a train wearing tie-dye.  Or colors, for that matter.  On tonight’s train it was all black, white, and gray.  I never know what to do when I’m on the train.  Usually I bump my head on the hanging handrings as I’m standing and I sort of feel like nobody wants me to sit next to them if there’s an open seat next to them.  I never know whether it’s okay to look around the train or if I can look out the window or if I should just stare at the floor.  Most of the Japanese people seem to close their eyes as they ride.

If there was ever a parking competition where you had to get your car parked in the tightest spot, a Japanese person would win.  It’s crazy some of the places people park here.  I have no idea how they can do it and have no cosmetic damage on their cars.  I need a camera so I can take pictures and show you the places people park here.

I watched a sumo match with English commentary on tv the other night.  It was very interesting.  Sumo matches are lightning fast and there is a lot of preparation and cleaning up so the action only really happens for about five seconds at max.  It’s amazing to see all the salt flying around purifying the ring between bouts.  What really surprised me about sumo was that you don’t necessarily win if you’re way bigger than your opponent.  If you’re small, you have to depend upon your speed to win the match.  Small fighters usually dodge and trick their opponent into lunging and falling out of the ring.  There are certainly a lot of different gambits and it is very interesting to see how much strategy goes into getting one’s opponent out of the ring.

Following the sumo match there was a show about a couple of guys who climb waterfalls in Japan.  Let me repeat that: these guys CLIMB WATERFALLS.  Woah.  I had no idea you could do something like that.  Man, wherever they were (somewhere in Japan) it was gorgeous!  After that there was a show about people cycling around Japan and visiting various places along the way.  Man, three interesting things on in a row – that’s incredible for Japanese tv.

I finally went to the city hall on Monday and turned in my Alien Registration forms.  I won’t get the card for another month but I’ve got a stamp in my passport now that says I’m an alien.  Sweet. (^_^)b

I woke up this morning slightly before 7:00 when our room phone rang.  I blindly stumbled across the room and groggily picked it up.

“Ugh, murf, mark.  Ha-hallow?”
“Um, yes, hello.  Is Tony there?”
“Uhh, Tony?  I think you have the wrong number.”

One minute later, I was back in bed and the phone rang again.  This time Lee got up to answer it.

“Hello?  Mmm…  Mmm…  Tony?  No, there is no Tony here.  Mmm.  4-2-2-0.  This is 4-2-2-0, not 4-2-0-5.  Mmm…”

One minute later, the phone rings again.  I picked it up this time.

“Umm, no this is still 4-2-2-0.”
“Really?  I wonder why that is.  I keep dialing 4-2-0-5.”
“This is his grandmother.  I’m calling from the United States and this is costing me a lot of money.”
“You don’t know Tony?”
“From Florida?”
“No, from New York.”
“Oh.  No, I don’t.  Would you like me to go get him and you can call back here in a couple of minutes and talk to him?”
“Would you do that?  Oh bless you, that would be great.”

I walked over to 4205 and knocked on the door.  There were surprised grunts and muffled shuffling and a man came to the door.

“Hi, are you Tony?”
“Uh, no, he’s still asleep.”
“Ah, well, could you wake him up?  His grandmother has called me three times in the last five minutes and she’s going to be calling back soon and would like to talk to him.”
“Uh, what?  Uh, yeah, sure.”

He disappeared and a moment later Tony appeared.  We shuffled down the hall back to my room and went in to find Lee collapsed on his futon again.  He woke up with a start as the door closed.  “Good morning…” he mumbled.  Deciding that there was too much action to go back to sleep (I was going to get up soon anyway) I grabbed my stuff to head off to the showers.  Just then, the phone rang again and at last Tony was connected to his grandmother.  As I was leaving I heard him say, “No, no.  I believe you.  I believe you dialed the right number.  No, I don’t think you’re going senial…”

I’m currently trying to live off as little money as possible until my food allowance kicks in on the 23rd.  I spent no money today and actually made 3100 yen.  Whoopee!  That means I have 4254 yen at the moment which isn’t really a lot.  When it gets down this low it’s really easy to see exactly how much money you’ve got left.  I really don’t want to go use the ATM at 7-11 yet.  I know I’ll have to someday but it’s really hard to justify it after spending all my money in the first week-and-a-half.  I’m not sick of bread and rice yet.  That’s about it for now.


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