Monthly Archives: October 2011

Morning Meeting

I believe I’ve mentioned our morning meeting before – for a few minutes, the section chiefs and the BOE head brief us on the day’s upcoming events. My section chief speaks, then the community center’s section chief, then the BOE head, then we all sit down and get to work. Takes about 45 seconds.

And then there’s today…

Section Chief: Good morning.
Everyone: Good morning.
Section Chief: Nothing really specific today. M-san (my supervisor) is taking a vacation day. The Head’s going to a meeting later today, he leaves at 10AM.
Community center section chief: The community center opens tomorrow at 10AM. The elementary school has a presentation on Sunday, Section Chief, BOE Head and I will be attending.
Section Chief: Anything, Head?
Head: Nah, not really.
Everyone: *goes to sit down*
Section Chief: Ooh, I just remembered!
Everyone: *pops back up again*
Section Chief: N-san’s back is still bothering him, that’s why he hasn’t been in this week. Looks like he’ll have to miss a lot of days in November too, until he’s better. That’s all.
Everyone: *goes to sit down*
Head: It’s really unfortunate…
Everyone: *stands up again*
Head:…let’s try to be careful about our health, everyone. Eat well so you don’t get sick and be careful about strenuous activity.
Everyone: *keep standing, glancing around at each other, and then faux-nonchalantly sit down again*



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Bedroom Before and After

Here’s my main bedroom (there are two, but the other is currently my office), the day I moved in:

Here’s the bed, with the dry-cleaned sheets and blanket. There’s also a dresser to my right.

Here’s my wardrobe and closet:

The closet is big enough to sleep in, but not great for hanging up clothes, hence the wardrobe.

Here’s the room now – even though these pictures were taken back in September, it’s still basically the same…few more blankets on the bed, though.

The bed’s kind of neat – there’s an attached shelf, some drawers, and a reading light. I keep some cat manga up there, along with my stuffies.

Top of the dresser, with a few pictures and my wolves.


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Walk Walk Tournament

This past Saturday Otobe held its 22nd annual Town Walk Walk Tournament. Yes, you are seeing two ‘walks’. Don’t ask me, might have something to do with Doraemon.

There were three lengths/types offered during the tounament – a 4.8km ‘short course’, a 7km ‘challenge course’, and a 6.1km ‘hiking course’. Most people ended up doing the hiking course (because it took a fun route through the hills near town) or the short course (for the wimps, including me, and most people over the age of 85). The short course folks walked out to a spring a couple of kilometers inland from the sea, had a drink, and walked back. It was a really nice day.

I spent most of the first half near the back, with one of the first grade teachers and some of her students. We were closely followed by a bus, in case anyone dropped from the grueling pace (harhar). There was one moment that I wish I could have caught on film, when the group encountered one of only two items of wildlife on the walk – a worm. All three little girls stopped short, with little gasps of horror, before they realized they were in no danger. (the other item of wildlife was a dead mouse – no shocked response).

The leaves haven’t quite started turning here yet.

When we got back, there was hot fish soup for everyone to enjoy. Most of the adults ate and then flopped on the grass, while the children got a second wind and threw themselves at the playground equipment.

The soup brought up an interesting point – the Japanese people, in general, are pretty proud of enjoying quite a few edible items that most Westerners would decline. However, I gained some brownie points that afternoon for gulping down all of the fish in the soup. Apparently, the preparers had accidentally included a few unpopular varieties, and my view that ‘fish is fish, especially white fish’ was considered unusual.

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Considering how many ‘returning from an unexpected hiatus’ blog posts I’ve read in the last ten years, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how easy it was to fall out of the blogging habit, but I am. Every time I thought about posting for the past month, I felt more like stomping my foot and throwing a fit.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have the time. Because of how my schedule works, I spend hours reading the news or books on Kindle each week, with a relatively small amount of time dedicated to actually being in class or prepping for class. Since I’m only responsible for the activities we do in class, it’s rare for me to spend more than 30 minutes per junior high school lesson, between paging through my educational resources, selecting an activity, modifying it appropriately for age level/time limit/grammar points, and actually producing it. Since I’ve started introducing them to tongue twisters as a warm-up, prep time has shot down.

Also, even though I have time, it’s all at work. I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to write with people chatting and answering the phone around me. I’ve also become a bit accustomed to my life here – it can be hard to put myself outside a situation enough to analyze it and write about it. This is my everyday life, why do I need to break out the camera again?

So, to break myself back in, a slightly related topic:

When I arrived, one of the first questions I was asked was ‘where’s your hometown?’. While many people in Japan obviously still live in or near the town they were born in, many more have moved to the larger cities or have been transferred elsewhere due to their jobs. Your hometown is where you were born, where you’re parents still live, and where you return for holidays in August and January. Even in a small town like Otobe, people keep track of which smaller unit of Otobe you’re from – Midorimachi, Motomachi, Sakaehama, Toyohama, Himekawa, etc. It determines where and with who you went to elementary school, your phone number when the office can’t remember*, and where you volunteer for traffic safety week.

I, of course, claimed Tucson as my hometown. Not many Americans would dispute this – I wasn’t born there, but I moved there before I started school and stayed through high school graduation. My mother lives there, it’s where I returned for holiday breaks during college. I vote there, register my car there, know every neighborhood and shop. If I have a hometown, it is Tucson.

A few weeks later, I was explaining to my co-workers how I still felt at home in a seaside town like Otobe despite my Arizona upbringing because Otobe is similar to Narragansett, RI, where I spent part of every childhood summer. I broke out my large classroom map of the US to show them Rhode Island, and mentioned in passing that I was born in Hartford.

This caused a sudden bout of confused consternation. Hartford? But you said your hometown was Tucson.

It is, I replied, I was only born in Hartford. We left when I was six months old and I don’t remember it one bit.

It took a surprisingly long amount of time to convince them that even though I was born in Hartford, and my grandparents lived nearby, it shouldn’t be considered my hometown. For them, that was all was needed to qualify Hartford as my hometown. I had to explain that most Americans would think it was silly to claim a city I barely knew (silly, and a bit pretentious, if I had gone around claiming that in southern Arizona), and more closely associate a concept of ‘hometown’ with high school or school, at least. It can be even more fluid in the US – a ‘hometown’ can be wherever you are living currently, if you are in a sufficiently strange and distant situation. If you’ve only lived in Sacramento a month, it’s still ‘where you’re from’ on a business trip in Australia.

*This produced a pretty amazing feat, in my eyes at least: Within Otobe, you only have to dial the last six digits of your phone number, and the first two refer to your area (Midorimachi for me). Last week, the office needed to contact someone, but had lost her number. Using the area she lived in and the phone number of someone they knew lived nearby, plus a little bit of house counting, they produced 4-5 likely numbers…and found her on the second try. Wow.


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