Tag Archives: work

14 on the 14th

(Note: This post was written November 19th and scheduled to publish November 23rd)

I used to do something where I would take 12 pictures to share on the 12th of the month, but 1) my memory is actually not as good as advertised and 2) usually I only find it buried in my to-do list sometime around lunch, after half the day has passed. So this month, I happened to do it on the 14th instead, which also happened to be my 25th birthday.

Looking out my front door, around 8:10 in the morning.

As of my┬ábirthday, no snow had fallen in Otobe. Here you can see my neighbor’s empty house. He was a teacher at the local elementary school, but quit and left town unexpectedly last spring. I’m hoping for a new tenant this coming March.

Blue nonburnable trash bag.

I have burnable trash pick-up twice a week, but nonburnable trash only gets picked up every other Wednesday. You can only put it out in these special color-coded bags, which can be purchased at the grocery store and other places around town. They’re expensive – about $1.30 for a biggish bag like this one. Thankfully, I only throw out one every two weeks. The burnable garbage bags are pinkish-red and I can get away with just throwing out a tiny one of those twice a week.

The contents of the passenger seat.

Since I rarely have passengers, I tend to use the front seat as storage for stuff I don’t want to be schlepping inside constantly. The bag with Snowy on it is my school bag – lesson ┬áplanner, prize stickers, tissue, hair ties, sight reading cards, etc. You can just make out my school shoes on the floor. I keep a pair at the junior high school permanently, but this pair travels with me for the elementary schools.

The sign in front of the town community center.

As I said, it hasn’t snowed yet, but preparation has been pretty much continuous since October. All of the potted plants flower boxes have been moved inside, and these bushes have had trusses built over them for a tarp. The whole thing will just be a mountain of snow between December and March.

Crummy weather in the morning.

The weather was strange all day, alternately sunny and pouring rain.

T-sensei at the start of class.

I only had one class that day – the third years at the junior high school. They’re the equivalent of American ninth graders, around 14-15 years old. They have entrance examinations coming up at the beginning of January, so they’ve been buckling down. They “retire” with much ceremony from school sports teams at the end of summer* and many of them stay after school for self-study. The sign to the right of the clock says “35 people, 35 colors”.

Don’t forget!

Japanese students are just as fond of writing on their hands as Americans. He’s written a note to keep from forgetting to bring in money for a school fundraiser.

2012 Chorus Champions

Each fall, the school holds a cultural festival. There are dance numbers and plays in the morning and a singing competition in the afternoon. Each class has to sing one song chosen specifically for the competition and a second song chosen by the class. They practice for weeks beforehand and two students practice playing the piano for the same pieces. The third years get to keep the award plaque in their classroom because they won in September for the second year in a row.

Driving north in Otobe.

Pouring rain when I left for the school, clearing up when I drove back to the office an hour later.


I get an hour for lunch, so I swung by 7-11 for my favorite convenience store meal – beef stew in a pouch. The bakery in town is quite good, but their french bread is popular and I have to be quick if I want any.

I have a desk, but in reality it’s just a large shelf and I do most of my work at the table.

Getting dark out early.

The clouds were back by the time I left work, so it was quite dark. By the solstice, it will be full night when I leave at 4:30.

Mailbox gleanings.

Yes, my mailbox is a USPS priority box. I originally tossed it out on the porch to get it out of the way, planning on eventually breaking it down and throwing it out. Instead, the mailman started tossing my mail in there, so I recycled it and it’s had the job ever since. That afternoon, I had a timely birthday card (a rarity!), two postcards, and my exam ticket for the JLPT.

Dessert from a coworker.

As I was heading out the door, a coworker gave me a bag from the local bakery – strawberry shortcake and what I thought was a creme brulee. The cake was quite good, the whatever-it-was was surprisingly nasty. Not sure what went wrong there.

Birthday picture.

My dad and I usually take a picture together each year on my birthday. He’s made it to Japan twice before, but circumstances conspired against us this time. Instead, we used Skype.

*They don’t stop participating altogether – they can’t compete in tournaments or games between schools, but they still go to practice and play with the younger students when they have time.



Filed under japan

Happy New Year!

Kids: This is kind of weird…

Maki-san: It’s not weird! It’s traditional!

Me: Covering a bare tree branch with styrofoam balls, plastic fish and dice is traditional?

Apparently so. The decorations used to be mochi (squishy, chewy rice cakes), but apparently styrofoam isn’t as messy. There was an impromptu decorating session in the lobby this afternoon, including a bunch of fifth graders who had come in from sledding to warm up in the library. Then we tied the poor branch to the ceiling.

Of course, no sooner was it up then were people wondering if we had hung it upside down – branches down, rather than up. There was a brief, fierce debate, including Googling and wondering if we should hang one branch one way and the other the other way. Finally, someone determined that it was traditional locally to hang it branches up, so we began the long process of flipping it over.


Filed under japan