(01/10/03 - 31/10/03)

 

See October's photos

 

 

01/10/03

 

Second day of school festival.  Pretty much more of the same, but with karaoke (no I didn't join in), and a demonstration of the machines the students had made.  Oh, we all played bingo, too, and the students (and staff, for that matter), got really into it!

 

Badminton

 

Now the weather's gone cooler, I've decided to bite the bullet and appear before the students in...SHORTS!  No-one fainted!  (I was quite impressed).  I've joined the school badminton club, and went along for the first time tonight.  The coach was really helpful, and pointed out that I'm gripping the racket wrong (looks like I've picked up some bad habits in the 12 or so years I've been playing).  Apparently it's going to take three months to train me out of it.  Damn.  His exact words were: "you are holding it like a frying pan".  Hehehehe!  How's that for an insult?!  

 

It was good fun, though, and I felt really great after the exercise.  The club meets for two and a half hours four times a week.  So I've got plenty of time for working on my grip... 

 

02/10/03

 

The athletics events were postponed due to rain, but we still had our special bento boxes (a very tasty lunch!).  Although the kyoto-sensei (the vice-principle) insisted on staring at me while I fought with the soba noodles.  (I can eat them with chopsticks, but I can't make the obligatory slurping noises).  Anyway, he proceeded to point out to me that I was gripping the chopsticks all wrong.  How ironic.  First the badminton racket, now the chopsticks.

 

I tried holding them the "right" way, and food went flying everywhere, much to the delight of kyoto-sensei.

 

Badminton Rackets and Bicycles

 

Today I made two very important purchases - a brand spanking new Yonex badminton racket (badminton club beware) and a sparkling new bicycle, which I proceeded to ride (wobble) around the streets of Matsushiro-cho and other neighbouring cho's (a cho is a block or group of houses, like a mini-neighbourhood). 

 

See the photos

 

The bike has a very cool light on it, that is powered by a dynamo run off the tyres, so as I madly peddle around, the light comes on (obviously during the day I can move the dynamo away from the tyre...).  I'll take a photo of it tomorrow...

 

Damn Cockroaches

 

Yes, just had my second (third if you include the giant beetle) giant cockroach.  It was 7cm by 2cm (yes, I measured it).  It ran up the wall by my fridge, stopped, and gave me a really smug look.  The bastard.  Fridge went flying, drawers went flying, cabinet, tables, chairs....

 

Shoes went on, bug spray in one hand, glass in the other (remembering you're not supposed to stand on the damn things).  And there I was, prowling round a kitchen-in-disarray, spraying so much bug spray I couldn't see anything.  But I got 'im!  He's now acting dead under said glass, but I don't quite know what to do with it now...

 

03/10/03

 

"Athletics Meet"

 

A really fun sports day, with excellent games.  I wish we'd had something like this at school.  The students put a lot of effort into preparations for the event, and seemed to have a really good time.  Take a look at the photos, and look carefully for the mascots at the back which the students had made - they were absolutely stunning.

 

Oh yes, and I took part, too!

 

Teachers' end-of-festivities Enkai

 

We had a beautiful, very formal, Japanese-style meal.  The sake and beer were flowing!  The food was absolutely delicious, and the company was really good!  We all got rather tipsy, and I taught my table some tongue-twisters.  "She sells sea shells on the sea shore", which was really funny, until they tried to teach me a Japanese one: "nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago" (raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg).  

 

After the meal, a crowd of us went on to a second party (in Katamachi).  It was at a karaoke bar (where you rent out a private room, so you can warble away without any other groups hearing you).  Drinks and food are ordered by telephone and are brought straight to your room.  I must apologise to my colleagues for my absolutely dreadful singing!  My only defense is that I know I can't hold a tune, but I was rather drunk!  I had a fantastic time, though....!

 

04/10/03

 

Yosakoi Parade through Katamachi

 

We had to perform the dance twice, and then do a second dance with all the teams (and there were quite a few!).  It was much more relaxed than the Wakasaji Festival, and we all really had fun.

 

See the photos

 

 

Sarah's Birthday

 

After the parade, we drove down in convoy to Echizen for a party thrown for Sarah by her boyfriend.  A really great party, that went on through the night...!  

 

See the photos

 

08/10/03

 

Fire Drill

 

Lovely weather for it.  The whole process was much more calm, quite and orderly than I remember it being at home.  Students and teachers gathered on the track/playing field, and were given a talk by the local fire chief (I think.  He looked very important, anyway).  There were also four firemen present as well.  


They then proceeded to give a demonstration (which five students took part in), on how to use fire-extinguishers - first setting fire to a trough full of petrol (it smelled like petrol, anyway).  The funny thing was, they set fire to the (dead) grass covering the race-track, too by mistake.  But no-body seemed to care.  The fire started spreading, and I began to wonder if I should say something.  The firemen suddenly noticed, however, and started frantically jumping up and down on it.  Why they didn't just use on of the fire-extinguishers they were holding, I guess I'll never know.  

It was quite funny, though.

 

09/10/03

 

Kara and I set out to Ono to meet friends for dinner.  Unfortunately we started nattering away, and weren't paying attention to where we were going.  Two and a half hours later we finally made it to Ono (it should only have taken us 30-45 minutes).  Oh dear.  It was worth it, though.  The company was great (as was the food!).  

 

See the photo of Kara and I after our intrepid journey across Fukui.

 

10/10/03

 

Enkai (party)

 

For teachers involved in the school play (plus the principle - kocho-sensei, and vive principle - kyoto-sensei).

 

We went to a wonderful Korean restaurant, where you BBQ your own bits of meat over a little flame grill thing set into the table.  The beer and sake were flowing, and by the end of the evening a fair few of the teachers kept attempting to talk to each other in English!  It was a totally fab evening, and very very funny.  Unfortunately, however, protocol forbids me to reveal the events of the party in any great detail.  Suffice to say, we all got very drunk, and my bike-ride home was extremely interesting (considering I could hardly walk).  

 

14/10/03

 

So we've got a bit of a routine going - heading over to Josť's to watch "Six Feet Under" every Tuesday...well, this time I took my camera...!

 

See the photos 

 

16/10/03

 

Professional photo of "English Department Teachers" taken.  Felt like I had an expression somewhat akin to a hamster on speed...not sure why!  Guess I'll have to wait for the photo to be developed...!

 

18/10/03

 

Yosakoi rehearsal (ready for performance tomorrow), and Iwato gave us the "professional" photo taken of us at the Katamachi Parade...see the photo


This has to be simply the most amusing photo I have ever seen of myself.  It reminds me of a "Where's Wally" picture.  Only it's a bit too easy...!

 

Party at Mary's...got very drunk (surprise surprise) and let Christina drive my car back...!  Despite having issues with which side of the road to drive on, she didn't crash it!


See the photos

 

19/10/03

 

Host Family Hajimemashite Party

Although I didn't get to meet my "Host" family (basically this scheme just puts you in touch with a real-life Japanese family, who want "internationalise" by meeting Gaijin...), it was a good party.  My "family" were late, and I had to leave early for the Yosakoi performance.  We got to dance the Macarena and play the Taiko drums though, which was great.  It was a Pot Luck party, and the food was really good.  I made a batch of mini banoffee pies (thank you Suzy for the recipe), which actually turned out quite well!

 

See the photos.

 

Yosakoi Performance at Takefu University

(Nagisa's Uni)

Did two dances, then a third with everyone.  One of the dances included a version of "River Dance".  I would love to tell you that I fell over my own feet and fell off the stage.  But I'd be lying.  I actually managed to do it!  More-or-less in time!  And there were no casualties!  Had a fab time, and then went for okomiyaki (the omelette-type thingy) with Kazu ("Kaz") and Brandon.  

 

See the photos.

 

Tom's Trouble

Master Plan failed - problem with flight #1 to Frankfurt meant flight #2 to Japan would be missed.  Received various messages from various sources and discovered he would be getting a flight via Dubai with Emirates, arriving at 5.30pm (instead of 8.10am).   

 

20/10/03

 

Tom

Well, since I'd already booked the afternoon off, I decided to drive down to Kansai International Airport in Osaka to meet Tom off his flight.  And there was no way to get a message to him to tell him not to get on a train.  So I HAD to make it before he left the airport...no problem since I was to finish work at 12.30.

 

Only, before leaving work I checked the flight times.  His flight was due to get in an hour early - arriving at 4.30.  Which gave me exactly four hours to drive from Harue (north of Fukui City) to Kansai Airport (south of Osaka).  Look at a map.  It's a long way.   

 

Incidentally, I didn't have a map (only one of Fukui and some VERY sketchy ones showing that there is a road that goes to Osaka) despite two and a half hours of internet searching the night before.

 

So, at 12.30pm I lept into my 660cc lawn-mower engine car, armed with my VERY sketchy map, the flight details and a LOT of determination.  Off I headed to the Hokuriku Expressway, and set off in a southerly direction.  (Incidentally, after my hideous but funny experience of getting lost after a night out in Katamachi, I also went armed with a compass...).

 

As it was the route to Osaka and the airport itself are very good, but I still had to drive like the clappers.  I didn't know it was possible to get 120km/h out of a 660cc engine.  After the first few hours I began to doubt I'd actually make it, and had visions of getting a call on my keitai (mobile phone) from Tom at Fukui train station saying he'd arrived.

 

I arrived at the airport (having had to pay vast amounts of money at toll booths along the five or so expressways encountered) at exactly  4.30pm.  Telling myself Tom still had to get through customs, etc, and hoping that the flight details hadn't changed again in the four hours I'd been driving, I began to panic, and irrationally drove around the airport 3 times (I kept missing the sign for the car park).  I parked the car on the third floor (US/Japan 2nd floor), lept out, flew down the nearest stairs.  This was a mistake.  It was the fire exit.  The bridge to the airport was from the third floor.  Ran back up the stairs, through the car park, over the bridge, down the stairs in the airport, and ran to the gate.  

 

I then stood there for an hour waiting for Tom to come through.  I think he was the last person off his flight!!!

 

Anyway, seeing the expression on his face when he saw me standing there waiting for him was worth the four hour mad drive, and the panic through the airport!  

 

The drive back took about five hours, and we stopped for noodles, which were very welcome!

 

So now, at last, Tom has made it to Japan!!!

 

22/10/03

 

Tom's 23rd Birthday

 

We went to Imadate to make paper, and to go to Espoir - the truly wonderful patisserie - where we bought a really great birthday cake.  Yum.

 

See the photos

 

For dinner we went to the Korean restaurant that my last work enkai had been held at.  It was very romantic, and the food was absolutely delicious.  

 

24/10/03

 

School "Picnic" (each class goes on a day excursion of their choice)

 

I decided to join class 2.1 with Uesugi-sensei and Kitamura-sensei for a BBQ in the mountains, followed by bowling.  

 

The food was really good, and the kids seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  Bowling was fun, too - some of the students are really good!

 

See the photos 

 

25/10/03

 

Katsuyama Food Festival and Heisenji Temple (again)

 

Went to the Katsuyama Food Festival at the Dinosaur Museum with Tom.  Not a tremendous amount of food, but it was a beautiful day (too nice to go into the museum), so we headed off to Heisenji Temple and went on a bit of a hike around the area.  It really is very beautiful there.

 

See the photos 


At the food festival, my eye was drawn to a proud looking man standing behind his stall waving a framed picture of his family standing round a Jersey Cow.  He was telling me (in Japanese) all about Jersey cows,  so I told him in my best Japanese "Watashi wa Jersey kara kimashita" (I am from Jersey).  He was so excited, and gave me his business card, asking for my Jersey address in return.  Naturally I bought a litre bottle of Jersey milk from him!  It's absolutely delicious, and tastes pretty much the same as at home!

 

Pizza and alcohol party

 

At mine, to celebrate Tom's arrival in Japan/birthday, and also to celebrate Christina's birthday.  Proving that you can fit more than 20 people in my apartment!!!  (together with six large pizzas and copious amounts of alcohol).  Getting lost around Katamachi afterwards was interesting!  But at least we finally found somewhere to have the final drink(s) of the evening!

 

See the photos 

 

26/10/03

 

Back to the Echizen Pottery Village (with Brandon, Laura and Tom) to collect the pots!!!  Hurray!!!  Very exciting!

 

See photo of glorious finished pot! 

 

29/10/03

 

Tom visits my evening class and meets the children.  They went crazy over him - using him as a climbing frame.  They wouldn't let him go, and he had to sit in on some of the lesson, just to stop them screaming.  They loved his "golden" hair (!).  They announced this, after they said about me "hana takai" - "big nose".  Thanks kids!

 

See the photos.

 

 

 

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