Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ponderous Overload of the Uj

Well, it's almost October, and you know what they say about October.

They don't say much. Or at least, I don't, because I'm too busy.. being busy. I have entries I want to write, and photos I want to post, and letters, and things to say and explore and share, but frankly my dears, it's speech contest season, so we've gone directly from party-all-the-time summer vacation, to party-all-the-time sports day, to three-day-work-weeks-are-awesome lineups... aaaand now we're in the city of work a regular week and stay two hours late every evening, thanks.

And it only happens once a year, but I don't much like it. I do it because I want to.. because I love my speech kids and I want them to do well, and I want to spend time with them, honestly, because they are impressive kids. But this whole get home at 6:20 and then turn around and go to your evening activity crap is... crap. On the evenings when I don't have anything going on (and believe me, they crop up, if only because I make them sometimes), I don't really have the energy to get anything accomplished.

I end up doing things like going for walks, reading, playing video games, enjoying the autumnal coolness of the air. Which is all well and good, although you will think I've fallen off the face of the planet.

SO, I have some GREAT photos, and really fun stories, and I've had some wonderful experiences, and I do want to share them all, but I also want to do them justice. So they will have to wait.

I haven't fallen off the Earth.. it's just October, y'all.. October.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Ponderous Return of The Uj (as in "usual")

Well, I must apologize for leaving you so long with that bad taste in your mouth of me being a little bit of an asshole. The truth is, I only felt bad about it for a short while, because things just got too busy to carry on with all that!

That weekend that was supposed to be International Picnic but was typhoon instead (9/3-4) preceded our seven days of working-not-working, or Sports Day Week.

Since I had been complaining about needing a vacation, I tried to look at the daylong stand-around-outside fest as a forced vacation. It worked for a while anyway. The first few days after the typhoon was finished were almost cool, and they were clear and pleasantly bright. I stood under the blue sky, looked up through the cherry trees, and wandered amongst the students, all gathered for practice. Really, it was blissful.

And although I don't necessarily like to spend all day at my desk, I don't necessarily like to spend no time here either. I have a lot of stuff I do (I might have menioned before), things that require a bit of attention, if not daily, then at least every few days to keep them moving smoothly through the internet and my brain. Hyogo Times and JETinfogather are two big ones, but my kanji review list begins to get out of hand after too long, and there's always that TEFL course I just signed up for...

And it slowly becomes maddening to spend so much time each day doing actually nothing when you know there's stuff to be done. But by the time you get home, you're pretty worn out from all that standing around in the sun, so all you really want is a shower and a nap and maybe some dinner.

So it's the best of weeks, and it's the worst of weeks, and it's also longer than most weeks, since you spend Monday to Saturay in practice and prep, and then the Sports Festival itself is Sunday.

All of our favorite events were back, the dancing, the family races, the relays, the mukade (centipede) race (I don't know whose idea this race was, but it's hilariously full of wipeouts)... the log-pull, the hat chicken fights without a pool (also called kibasen, or "mock cavalry battle")

Sports Day itself was pretty hot, with a little douse of rain in the morning to wet down the field and make the relay race a bit tougher. I got my new camera replaced for free (the rice-bin one never did recover, but the store exchanged them for me, no questions asked.. must have been under some kind of warranty since I did only buy the thing a few weeks before it got typhoon'd) so I was holding down the shutter to take a lot of rapid action shots.

Got to see a few of the graduated students, including a couple favorites..

The PTA enkai that followed was not far from the school. At first I sighed and thought, oh, I guess I have to go, but then I remembered that I love meeting kids' parents and seeing where they came from in that respect, so I was even happier that I had the good fortune of being seated next to, across from, and diagonal to parents of a couple of my favorite students. It only makes sense, of course, that the PTA parents have the mroe involved, harder-trying kids. Best of all was that the guy to my right was my speech boy's dad.

A teacher at Higashi asked me who our speech kids were, and when I said this kid, he was like "Aw crap."

All in all, it was perhaps the most successful sports day yet. I cannot find the memory card with the photos from that day, so I'll put them up eventually.

 Following our Monday-Tuesday fake weekend (blissful, that), we had a three-day work week, which for me was chock full of the usual. Classes, commitments, planning. It went off without any more hitches than usual, anyway. Since my 17th - 19th hopes for pilgriming had been rained out, we had to devise a new plan...

That entry coming soon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Being Spared Does Not Make You An Asshole;

asking for shit from those who weren't really spared, however, does.

Today, I drove one of my fellow JETs to the doctor's office. While I was standing around thinking about how nice today was (for some reason, the air was clear but cool), how normal (I even had class today, at small elementary!), I happened to glance at the TV.

I don't really watch much TV. My TV is not plugged in to the wall, and spends most of its time with a pretty cloth over it that I got in Okinawa. But on screen, they were showing some rivers flooding, these being up in Hokkaido. And as excited as I got about the typhoon, and as amazing as it is to me that the eye passed right over our area, pretty much, this typhoon had an abnormally large eye, and there are areas that got hammered.

I tried to call the number for staying at Seiganto-ji, the first temple on the pilgrimage, on Monday, because I figured it wasn't nice to call Friday as I looked at the weather map and watched patches of red flashing over that area of Wakayama prefecture all day. But on Monday, the phone lines were down.

If you think about the counterclockwise motion of a storm, this kinda makes sense.

I later heard from someone that Nara and Wakayama got a normal year's worth of rainfall in the course of that two days or so. A year's worth. The typhoon stalled below Shikoku and dumped buckets of water on Nara and Wakayama for days.

So on the TV in the doctor's office, I saw bright orange shrine buildings swamped with mud. I sat down with a muttered "holy shit," and stared. I could see that it was in Wakayama, and I had a sudden sinking feeling I knew where the footage might be from...

Just below Seiganto-ji, my temple destination for the upcoming long weekend, there is a famous shrine called Kumano Nachi Taisha. The shrine was going to be one of the things we did while in the area. But I was right, that shrine, like that whole area in Wakayama, got the shit beat out of it by the rain. If you click there you can see video, although it's in Japanese.

MP-sensei said she'd try again today to call for a reservation at the temple, even though I would be at the elementary school. I kinda hope it didn't connect. They'd be like, what, do you not watch the news, inconsiderate foreigner?! So now I kinda feel like an asshole.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

This Post Has No Photos; Camera's In the Rice Bin

What's upsetting is, it's a brand new camera. I'm worried about the water damage it might have taken yesterday evening when I went out to get photos of the flooding.

Typhoon Talas moved through (finally) after sitting just south of middle Japan, inching up towards us at like 12km/h. I was told, and this is unprecedented, that I needed to leave my apartment because of its proximity to the visibly out-of-control river..! It looked even higher than it did two years before.

Everything is okay where I am, though two years ago when I had just arrived in Japan, Typhoon Melor did some horrible stuff to areas north, in Ichinomiya, Haga, Chikusa, and Sayo. In Yamasaki, it was mostly just mud damage, lots of tatami being replaced.

Usually, wind isn't so much an issue around here (which is why it was so weird a few months ago when the wind was whipping through, taking things apart and throwing Pachinko Parlor pieces onto cars!), but the rain overload becomes dangerous. Landslides can happen in the mountain areas, and flooding in the lower spaces by the ubiquitous rivers.

Everything I could think to, I put up on top of something (tables, the bed, chairs, etc.), then grabbed my computer and some clothes, and went to Monzen. Before it got dark, I saw that the river had come up just below our apartment complex, and the bottoms of the cherry trees on the bank were underwater.

Day before, someone had stolen my favorite umbrella (!) but it turned out okay, because it was rainin' sideways, and I just wore my rainjacket everywhere anyway. My phone is also in the rice bin. I hope they recover. I'll be very sad if they don't.

Though it might be time for me to get a phone that can access google maps. So I spend less time being lost on Japanese roads!

And now for some more geography:

First, look at this map to remember where I live.

Next check out the track of Talas here.  I know, right?

In terms of things that have a direct impact on my immediate reality, this was a fairly big deal (it changes my weekend, and in some very minor ways, my life). The funny thing is, almost no one outside Japan asked me about it! Everything is relative.. some things that hugely impact Japan don't actually affect my immediate circumstances, and then some things that no one hears about have me replacing my shit and crashing refugee-style on higher ground!

Stay dry, everyone.