So I know that I'm supposed to have a lot to say. But when I think of what I have been doing the last few days, my mind draws a blank. I guess I'm used to it already here??? (?!) That doesn't make sense.
First off, here are a couple of pictures I found from my cell phone from the festival. These are panoramic I took by moving it sideways. They're from the last night of the festival, when there are big floats on every block for as far as you can see, and lots of drummers in festive clothes and townspeople (tee-hee, I like using that word!) dancing around them.
This is the graveyard right by my house. I took these by peeking my phone through a little opening in the wall. Japanese graves are family ones instead of each person having their own space. So all the ashes are put in a big pit that's opened up every time someone dies, and they're large vertically instead of horizontally. I think, I've never actually seen an open Japanese grave. :P
Here's a "purikura," the little photo booth things that make you look a lot prettier than you are because they have fancy lights and then you get to decorate them all crazy and then you have tiny little fun stickers that are printed out. Or you can email them to your phone. Fun! I think Rylan is doing the Bloods symbol.
Anyways, last Friday was my first day of work. More like an orientation. I took the bus to my school on the other side of town (I live just north of downtown, and my school is on the way south side) and got there four minutes late. But the bus schedule down there is hard. There's a bus that leaves at 7:10, and one that leaves at 8:00. So.....I dunno. Biking would probably take an hour. I could do that, I suppose. But then I would arrive at school all sweaty and gross everyday. Ew. This school is so nice and relaxed. It's way different from Kitamatsuzono where I was at when I was on SICE. (The school's name here is Mirumae.) At Kitamatsuzono, all the teachers would use the super polite and formal speech* with each other all the time, and even my first day I was sat down and not reprimanded, but reminded of my manners. I thought that it was just because I was being rude at the time, but now that I'm at a new school I see it's mostly because that school was uptight. The people I'm with now are really really nice. (The vice prinicpal at my other school was really nice though. I liked her.)
One of the girls I'm here with, one who has been here a year already, is at Kitamatsuzono this time. Before she went there for her first day, she said that she had heard from other teachers at her old school that that one had no rules and the kids ran wild and it was viewed as a place of anarchy. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I guess I can see it now. Over there, the kids were friendly with their teachers, but also used very casual speech with them. This is a big no-no. But at Mirumae on Friday, a kid came in the teachers' room** and was scratching his elbow, and the teacher that sits next to me got on him for not having his hands at his sides when talking to his superior. But not in a scary way. It's like the schools have completely reversed hierarchies. At Kitamatsuzono, the polite speech was directed towards colleagues but not used by students, and at Mirumae, kids know their place and the teachers are much more relaxed.
That Friday I went out to lunch with my main English teacher (I think her name is Ishigawa) and the Japanese language teacher and I got cold noodles. That night Ishigawa went to Tokyo to see the Blue Man Group. Jealousy. Oh, also some of the teachers at my current school go by their first names. What?! That's crazy. And more fun.
Most of that day I helped kids with their speeches for a contest. I spent about an hour with each one going over them line by line and correcting their pronounciation. They have trouble with Ls, Rs, especially when preceded by a vowel, Fs, Vs, and THs. Listening them talk is so funny.
"I have a friend in a wheelchair" is "I habu a friendo in a weeruchah."
"My namu izu Tanakamurakamishibiyusugawara"
"Thread" is "Su-reh-do"
"Pool of blood" is "pu-ru oh-vu bu-rah-doe" (It was from a speech about a Buddhist fable about Heaven and Hell)
I have to dress so modestly there, though, so all day I was burning up. I wore a pleated skirt, pantyhose, a tank top under a sleeveless V-neck, and a jacket over that. Since the schools are funded by government money, they don't use that much for "extravagences" and also have to set a good environmental example= no AC. But it's so humid!! So I was sweating all day and I stopped halfway home at Dan's apartment so I could rest and get my energy back. I think I was on my way to heat exhaustion or dehydration or something.
I also met a friend I hadn't seen in a while on Wednesday. She's going to LA soon, and I told her to look up Paris Hilton for me. She also said she wants to come to Texas over Christmas. But she was drunk, haha!
Last night I went with Dan and his old host family to go see fireworks. I don't know what they were for, nobody seemed to know, I think it's just an annual thing the city does because it's fun. There were supposed to be 10,000 of them that night, and in Beijing for the opening I hear there were 35,000. They were really cool but the breaks between the sets were so long. But I have never seen fireworks like that. They were so big!! And they didn't have any of the piddly ones to tide you over until the big ones, they were all big, and if they weren't then they looked like planets or smiley faces or things like that. The big ones took up my entire field of vision almost in the sky and the booms from them made my throat vibrate. It was cool, I can see why Japan is famous for them now. I tried to take pictures of them. My camera has a fireworks setting, but I didn't have a tripod, so they all came out funny. I'll post them anyways. Today I went out and bought a mini tripod for about five bucks. :)
Here's a pretty picture I took when walking to our spot, plus others.
I know that these videos don't do them justice at all. From video on a regular digital camera, not a camera specifically for videos, to the internet, they will be crappy. But also notice how long it takes the sound to travel, which means they're really far away, which gives a scale to their size. Also listen to their echoes. I really like the ones that look like duds then have all kinds of crazy movements around.
(Oh, sweet. I was flipping channels just now and I went from the Olympics to kabuki to a wanted ad for one of the sarin gas attacks terrorists. Haha! Right now they're talking about Michael Phelps on TV, just in Japanese.)
I'm going on a trip to visit Kirby in Hamamatsu, then to Osaka to visit Richard, then to Tokyo to visit people that went to Earlham as exchange students and also my friend Kana who I knew from SICE. I should be packing. Hrm... But, yeah, I'll be gone for a week until school actually starts. Probably no internet. This week is O-bon, which is the festival to honor your dead ancestors, so the whole week Japan is on vacation. Yay!
*Japan has three main levels of speech: casual, for use with people you know real well and are your same social status, polite speech for people higher than you or people you don't know, and polite speech which is used for higher ups, like bosses at work.
**In Japan, instead of having their own room and desk within it, all the teachers' desks are in one room, so they get to know each other better instead of being lonely, and the kids come there for a question outside of class.
**EDIT: Spam comments on my blog isn't cool, yo! Cut it out!**