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Published: December 23rd 2005
Covered in snow...must mean Christmas is near!
Yeah, yeah, that's almost as corny as my "Leaving on a JET plane" quote from one of my first entries. So yes, as many of you have heard, I am headed to Thailand this Saturday, Dec 24. This blog is to inform everyone what Christmas/winter has been like in Japan! I have been a busy lady ever since I have been back from my sister's beautiful wedding. I got back and after the first day of being extremely exhausted and my teacher telling me "just go home and get some sleep, okay?" when they are usually commenting on having too much energy than is humanly possible, it was as if I had never left. It was such a short trip that my time never got adjusted. I was basically on Japan time the whole time I was home (which meant some sleepless nights!.
The first weekend back I went to Setoda to help out with their International Day. It was a day where we could teach anything, we just had to use English to teach it. Digging back to my norcal/chico roots, I thought country line dancing would be a great idea. I taught Lisa (my teaching partner) how
Island life...its pretty out there.
to do the electric slide and the boot scootin boogie (thank god for line/square dancing in high school!!!) at 9 am, and the kids came at 9:30. So after the first period, we were pretty tired. Then we realized we have 5 more classes to teach...it was going to be a LONG DAY! We had plenty of yeehaws and howdys for a lifetime. I can now say "heel toe step slide" and the lyrics to "I Iike it I love it" in my sleep. Although a very tiring day, it was a fun weekend because we got to experience island life (which included karaoke bars in trailor parks and the closest thing to rednecks), eat the best mikans i have ever had (those are mandarins for you non-j folk), and hang out with a bunch of people I had not seen for a while. That night we went to a party at Robs. It was a gift exchange. Lisa and I were freaking out about what to get to give and ended up giving really nice gifts....and I ended up getting a big plastic panda bank that we call Stinky. SOL for me!
The following Monday
Me teaching the electric slide yeehaw!
was a nice surprise for me...my first snowfall in Japan. Now, California, Chico and the Bay Area in particular, do not get a lot of snow. I can wear flip flops year round! So when it started snowing, I was so happy! It was great! I felt like I was 5 all over again. I would sit there at school and just watch the snow fall outside. I was in utter amazement. I got even more excited when it started to stick and not melt all the time. Then it kept snowing, and snowing, and snowing....for 3 days! It was crazy!!! Now cold weather constitutes a minor problem because they do not have the best heating methods and very little insulation in their houses. I knew how to work my electric heater (you just flip the switch), how to use my kotatsu (its a little table with a heater underneath it to keep your legs nice and warm, great invention by the Japanese), bought an electric blanket, but was afraid to use my kerosene heater. My Japanese friend Mayuko came over and taught me how to use it....gold mine! The winter was going to be warm after all! I also
Not a bad idea...
So past ALTs made all these English posters for the International day...we liked this one best
found out that my air conditioner can be used as a heater. DON'T LAUGH! You figure it all out when its in Japanese Kanji! I also find the snow very peaceful. It makes even the ugliest things look pretty when blanketed with snow, and seems to muffle the sounds of everyday life...making it very peaceful....novelty of this whole snow thing has not worn off. This is the first time I have lived where it snows!!!! Yay!!!! The Japanese think I am crazy. I LOVE snow, but despise slush. Thats the consistency between rain and snow and it just makes a big mess.
So besides gawking at the snow falling I have been very well entertained by events relating to the holidy season! The Monday I got back Lisa and I went to this Christmas/Bonenkai that was themed "California Wine." The city CIR sent out an email inviting us to go. Since my sister is such a wine buff, and only 1000 yen (10 bucks) for wine tasting, why not! Bonenkai means "end of the year" party and are big deals around this time...except at my schoo where we did not have one :-(. So besides knowing
Best Class of the day!
Lisa and I with some of our new country line dancers
it was going to have wine, was a party, and we had to bring a 500 yen present, Lisa and I had no idea what to expect. First problem: due to the snow we arrived late bc the traffic from Kabe to the city was soooo bad. Second problem: We get there and walk into a room with dining tables full of Japanese men and women all decked out in business suits...I was in jeans (I looked cute as if I was going out to a party, not a business dinner!). At the door we apologized for being late and if it was okay I was in jeans and they said it was fine (prob just being nice to the gaijin!). At first we felt really out of place and very overwhelmed. We were a handful of gaijin in the room. In the first 10 minutes the waittress managed to spill a glass of wine and water on me! We thought th lady next to me hated us bc we were being so rude and out of place...etc etc. Then things started looking up. The wine was pretty good and I was able to talk about some of the wines.
Setoda International Day
A photo of all the participants
Believe it or not some of the stuff Fin and Erin say has solidified in my memory. There was a wine from Gallo and another from Clear Lake. Was neat to be like "Oh I know these wines!!" Then they started to bring out food and it was great fun! Turns out the lady next to me was just terrified to talk to me, and did not hate me. Since the waittress felt bad for spilling wine on me she came to fill up my wine glass every 5 minutes. Oh, I forgot to mention, it was the Japan-American Society that was putting on the party. So that meant a) the Japanese people there spoke English and wanted to speak to English speakers as much as possible b) to speak both English and Japanese meant that they probably were pretty well educated and had good jobs=lots of money...we were schmoozing with big execs from Mazda and ownders of different companies in the city. WOW. jackpot ne? So the wine tasting was the very formal part of the evening. Then an hour later the 'real party' started. Waittresses came out with beer and whiskey on the rocks (may I reiterate this
is a drinking society?). And, my favorite part of the evening...they had a Japanese Country band come out and play American songs, like "Jingru Berrus" and John Denver's "Country Roads (which made me think of home!). We made some great new friends and had an absolute blast. I can't wait for the next Japan-American event!
The following Saturday Nikki and Nathalia had a very fun Birthday party. All was fine until we all wanted to go home. It was snowin soooo hard that some of the buses were shut down and well, I was supposed to stay with Brian, but he was a little out of it. It was nice to touch base with people before we all went on our separate travels. The next day I went to one of Brian"s teachers house where she taught us how to cook nabe and eat mochi where it actually really really tasty.
People are going all over the place this winter!! People are going to Thailand (woowoo), China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Okinawa, New Zealand, Indonesia, etc etc....aaah traveling, its a drug. Christmas itself in Japan is a little crazy. They celebrate better than most Americans...yet they aren't Christian! They have
Japanese Country Band
Jingru berrus, jingru berrus jingru arr the way!
no idea what Hannukah is and trying to explain got a little sticky (so during WWII.....). Despite not being home, I had plenty of lights and Christmas songs since November first. In the Tokyo Hands Department Store they had more variations of Santa Costumes than I knew existed. And, it would be my first ever WHITE CHRISTMAS yet I will be in Thailand. New Year's is the big holiday in Japan. It is a time for family and they eat mochi at midnight. It is the equivalent of our Christmas.
At school I have been doing Christmas lessons. I first told them about my Christmas and mistletoe and how my first real kiss was under mistltetoe (they loved that!). When the classes had 40 students I played a Christmas version of Telephone. Each team would have a verse to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. They would have to whisper it to their teammates, and then the final person write it on the board. Some of the translations were absolutely classic, including "Satan came to say" instead of "Santa came to say" and "he with Indians are us" for "all of the other reindeer." The classes with 20 students I
Me dancing with a very happy Japanese man. Notice I am taller than him
made Christmas cards which they loved.
For an end of year thing, Kabe SHS had a song festival. These students may suck at English but they are talented in other areas. i think its required that all Japanese kids play an instrument. It was really fun to watch the students perform as well.
Okay so that sums up the past 2 weeks. Its flown by and I am ready for warm beaches of Thailand!! I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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