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Big Off! All Drink Can

December 23, 2009

I ran into the crazy old lady from my building again in the lobby the other day. I was waiting for some of my friends to show up to head out together for taiko practice.

“It sure is cold!” she says, giggling as she stamps around and punches the elevator button repeatedly.

“Yes, yes it is,” I reply.

“You waiting for something?”

“Yes, I’m waiting for my friends to show up.”

“Ahh, I see… This elevator, you see, it’s always up on one of the higher floors. Look at that, it’s on the 11th floor. Us poor people on the lower floors have to wait forever because of those people up above. As for me, you see, I live on the second floor. It doesn’t seem right that I should have to wait so long for the elevator. Those people on the upper floors, they can use the stairs. I should have the elevator here for me.” She looked at me slyly and then burst out laughing again. “Well, have fun at taiko!” And she was off.

Yesterday I went to the library for the first time in a long time. I checked out some really interesting books. I got one called “Japanese words the Japanese people don’t know” and it’s a comic essay about the life of a teacher who works at a Japanese language school for foreigners here in Japan. There are all sorts of useful facts about the origins of words and the correct use of language that many Japanese people even get wrong. I think I’ll be able to use some facts I found in it for next year’s World Beer and Trivia Night (a tradition started by my predecessor and which I have been told I must carry on due to high demand).

I also checked out two books that were in the new section, “The Sayings of Peace” and “The Sayings of Love.” They’re both collections of quotes from people around the world dealing with those two subjects and they’ve been translated into Japanese. I think I’ll learn some useful words and maybe come away from reading them a little wiser.

I feel like a great fool sometimes. I went to Jusco yesterday to use some gift cards that I’ve been meaning to use for months, and then I went through all my shopping and got to the register only to realize that I left the cards in my car. I wish I could say this is the first time that has happened. Oh well, I guess I’ll use them someday.

I got to do another santa gig at a preschool on Monday. This time I read a picture book, The Mitten, to the kids and Mugi-chan read the Japanese translation (although I was the one who translated it). When I got to the part where the bear gives an enormous sneeze, the combined effect of a large bearded man sneezing uproariously was enough to send one poor little girl into hysterics. Another boy saw the screaming/crying girl and must have decided that seemed like a good idea because he burst into tears as well. Overall, I think the kids were pretty happy to have me there. I don’t have any more gigs like this planned for this year, but I’m looking forward to next year.

I had a radio interview yesterday and got to talk about Christmas in America. The meeting beforehand was supposed to be about what we were going to talk about during the show, but I ended up just talking with the host about my opinions as an American on various current events and on living in Japan. I was really glad that she was so forward about asking me questions and wasn’t afraid that I might be offended by asking for my honest opinion on some things that really don’t cast the best light on either one of our countries. She asked me what I thought about Obama, specifically what I thought about him receiving the Nobel Peace prize and his acceptance speech. I haven’t heard the speech yet, so I was surprised when she said that Obama said something about how war is inevitable in the search for peace or something like that. I’m going to have to check it out, because that really doesn’t fit the image I had of Obama, and it seems like he must have said something more around that to clarify what he means, but that seems like a very poorly worded thing to say in accepting a prize for world peace. She also asked me what it felt like to be a foreigner here in Japan and I told her I’m looking forward to the day when people don’t ask me what it feels like to be a foreigner living in Japan.

I ran into another wild boar last night up on top of Kanemidake. It was eating something very loudly (CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH) and I could smell it. Ash was falling lightly and building up on the roads. It’s so crazy to be living next to such active volcanoes.

Pretty much all the foreigners have left town for Christmas. Most of the English teachers here can only take their vacation days during winter break, so they’re making the best of it and either going home for a bit or travelling around Asia. I went out with some Japanese friends the other night and my friend took me to visit his grandmother. The very first thing we did was light some incense and pray at the family altar. This was the first time I’ve ever done that. I’ve been in Japanese Christian homes, but this was my first time in a Buddhist home. I was really honored that they would have me participate in that ritual with them and I felt like an important guest. The grandmother lives in a really old house (the place is tatami rooms only) and I was really able to appreciate the value of a nice warm kotatsu (short table with a blanket over the top and a heater underneath). We all gathered around it and ate mikan (Japanese tangerines) and sweets while we chatted. I’m looking forward to more encounters like this.

Today’s the emperor’s birthday. I’ve got the day off. I’m working on Jesus’ birthday. Feliz navidad!

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