A long long day. Am very frustrated and still apostropheless. I just spent the last seven hours meeting the Edosaki Board of Education, plus the principle of the junior high where Ill be teaching four days a week. Plus the five teachers there that speak english. Plus the principles and there assistants at the five elementary schools where Ill be teaching one day a week (each school gets me once a month, and one misses me every four months). My caretakers Hiromi and Kazuko came with me and did most of the talking. Lots of bowing. Lots of who can bow deeper, and who can say gozaimashita more than the others. Lots of tea. There is an ocha (tea) serving woman at each school. Thats her job, she just comes in and serves tea, backing out after shes done, bowing bowing, sumimasen. I said the same five sentences at each place, and only improvised a few things at a few of the schools. Everyone was impressed I could speak any Japanese at all. That was good. But each school meeting took forever. The Japanese often sit and ponder before they say the next thing. They dont attempt to fill silence. There are no awkward silences here unless its intended, and those are more evident. So with all of the pauses it took forever to meet everyone. I kept getting warned that the elementary school kids will want to hug me a lot and touch me because I am Gaijin, and again the blue eyes. So I dont have to wear suits to those schools. But my junior high school, Ill be dressed up every day. I liked the teachers who speak english at the junior high a ton. They were funny and told me they would throw me a party and that they would speak english at the party in my honor and that I could drink a lot that way and not have to concentrate on speaking Nihongo. This was told to me by the PE teacher, and then the 9th grade teacher next to him, a cheery round cheeked woman, said, You can drink a lot with us! haha. Apparently I may be playing soccer with the 7th grade teacher and his boys sometimes. He told me, I would enjoy soccer with you very much if you like, so I said sure, I would enjoy it too. Its strange because even though I dont understand so much of what was being said around me, I was able to understand so many things anyway. And I was able to get a sense of each persons personality. Some of the principles I met, I didnt really care for on first impression. Others I thought were wonderful. A couple acted sort of jaded and snide about the whole affair, while others were very interested in me and one even brought a map of the states out, picked out Ohio and wanted to know where in Ohio I was from. Youngstown was actually on the map, which was wierd, because only a few cities per state were on that map. So I think that principle has the impression that Youngstown is a big important city because it made it on the map. It is an important city, of course, to me, though I know not to the American public in general, so that made me happy seeing it listed there, over here in Japan.
Even though I only half understand or third understand the things being said, I find myself knowing things I didnt realize I knew. And only in a matter of four days. Ive been asking for water or beer or coke at restaurants and ordering my food on my own since the day after my first night. At first it was a focused effort, now not as much. Im learning the roads in Ami a bit, though now I have to learn Edosaki, which is very labyrinthine, well moreso than Ami, which is a maze as well (and even Hiromi, who has lived here all her life, gets lost).
I truely felt like the girl in Lost in Translation today. Probably because it was such a long extreme exposure of being talked to and about directly, without break. Every once in a while, a principle of board member would ask me a question that took forever to say, and then I would turn to Hiromi or Kazuko if I couldnt understand (which I probably couldnt if they took THAT long to ask me something) and Hiromi or Kazuko would say something simple like, He wants to know if you speak english. Or, he wants to know if you like curried rice, because thats all they serve on Friday. I told Hiromi and Kazuko I didnt believe them. Those people talked far too long to say one sentence. And my name was mentioned several times in those sentences. They assured me though that that was all that was said. Hmmm...at least the junior high, where Ill be the majority of the time, has that woman working there that says we will drink a lot together. haha. OH, and so cool, only at one of the elementary schools, the one I liked best because the principle was the one who pulled out to map to find where I come from, the ocha woman there stayed. She spoke english, and the principle obviously respected her. There was no backing out bowing and excusing herself. It was so cool to see that, after the others being so self-effacing. Cool stuff.
Im almost all done with most of the hard stuff of getting set up finally, so now I can relax a little. Just in time, because today almost broke me in half.
OH, and Kristen, I just let off three cockroach bombs in my apartment yesterday. I saw one and swept it out the front door and decided I wouldnt waste time letting the nasty creatures know they are messing with the wrong gaijin.
Oh yeah, garbage. DO you really understand how easy and how terrible our garbage system in America is? Easy to use, because you can throw out whatever whenever. Terrible, because its lazy. Here, I have to throw out only burnables on Tuesdays, Non burnable items on Wednesday, and THursday and Friday I have to seperate plastic and any other recyclables into three different bins. They dont mess around either. I had to buy two different kinds of garbage bags at the store. Both clear, so the garbage men can see if youve put something illegal in them. One for burnable items, another kind of bag with a different label for nonburnables. Oh and if I want to throw thermometers or batteries away, I have to go to the Ami town office to pick up a tiny red bag to put it in. Everything here is so particular. EVERYTHING. Nothing is done in sweeping gestures or generalization. I suppose it has something to do with Japan being a monoculture with little diversity in ethnicities living here, and also the small amount of livable land and the huge population living on top of each other. You cant just make sweeping gestures and you have to live carefully and politely because of that condition. IF you get into a car accident here, it is both drivers faults, regardless. Both are expected to assume responsibility because that is the way--everyone assumes responsibility for what happens here. Not like America one bit, where everyone is blaming someone else for something thats happened, it seems.
I miss my cat.