Sunday, December 18, 2005

Great weekend, but some expectations not quite met.

I feel like some account of this past weekend needs to be made, though perhaps it wasn't all that remarkable in the normal sense. It was a really nice weekend. On Friday night I chilled out at home because I had run out of money. Otherwise I would have gone to see the opera that a few of my friends were participating in. I read the newest edition of Bleach, and finished off the Kamui-den manga I was working on (which are good by the way). I'm just a sucker for ninja stuff I guess. Saturday was one of the most relaxing days I have had in a while. When I woke up it was beautifully sunny. Looking through all the things I had to get ready for the next day, I drove into town to get some ingredients for making my dad's bean salad recipe for the Christmas party the next day. It was raining hard in town.

Having to make food for a party is good for my lifestyle, because in order to make food I have to clean my kitchen. So my kitchen got cleaned and food was made. While I was making the bean salad it began to snow. Then I bleached my hair. And with my hair sufficiently lightened, and various preparations made for the chance that I could find a way to crash in or around Tokushima (because I had no desire to drive back to Kamikatsu over icey roads twice in the same weekend), I was good to go.

It was to a bonenkai ("forget year party," not "good enkai") at this guy Hideki's aunt's restauran that I was going. Hideki is a friend of my friend Derek, but he's started inviting me to more and more stuff, like snowboarding on the 24th later this week fpr example. So anyways, I went to this 忘年会 bonenkai and we had nabé. And it was good nabé. The other people who came were all coworkers of Hideki's from the prefectural office. Most of them work on the same floor. I had met three of the others before; we had gone hiking up Tsurugi. I don't think I wrote about it but I did probably post a fuzzy picture or something.
So it was pretty fun.
Results of the evening: I will be buying a snowboard on Friday, and I may be joining a brazilian jiujitsu class in the new year, I have no money left in pocket until Wednesday.
And when we left it had been snowing a bunch in Tokushima, too, so I called Brian and Christine to see if I couldn't crash at theirs. They were on their way home at that point in time and were trapped at a bridge that Tokushima drivers were incapable of getting up in the snow. It would seem that Tokushima drivers who never get any snow think that if they floor it and spin their tires like crazy they will somehow get up the bridge. So naturally traffic was backed up like crazy. They advised me to take side roads, which were fast.

In the morning Christine added the colour to my hair for me.

It turned out to be a little lighter than I was hoping. The last time I did blue it was darker. I don't think this colour looks all that good on me. When I said that to one of my students, they disagreed, but figured that there probably were colours that would suit me better. Not that I'm regretful that I dyed my hair, but because I am not so enamoured with the colour, I probably won't go for a second dying after all.
Actually, that picture makes it look pretty green, doesn't it?

Then it was off to an international association's party in Hanoura where I had the pleasure of surprising a few friends with the color, and then again at church. Church was our charols by candlelight service, which was nice. After church we had a big Christmas dinner at Barbara's house, which is imported from the States. She made turkey and pumpkin pie, and everyone else brought side dishes or deserts. We were expecting ten-ish people to come, but it was more than twenty. It made for a great party and everyone was able to eat their fill.

And the ride home was easy, because everyone in Katsuura and Kamikatsu was afraid of the roads. They were empty, so I could go my comfortable speed of 40 or 50 km/h instead of 10 or 20. If I can normally drive a road at 70 or 80, there is no reason that a normal person can't drive it in snowy conditions at 40.

But I have been loving the snow. It is perhaps the most at home I have yet felt in Kamikatsu. I think all the snow is my fault. God is sending me snow because I'm not able to travel to a place that has snow this year. He sure is kind, isn't he?

So today I found out that my students are more observant than my friends. My friends had no idea that anything was unsual with my hair until I took my toque off, even though some of it was sticking out from underneath. But at the beginning of class one of the girls was like, "Matthew, is your hair a little green? Please take off your hat!" And then the same thing happened again in my next class. But none of the teachers noticed anything until I sat in the office with my toque off after lunch. I would have to say that with one, maybe two exceptions it was warmly recieved.

While I was sitting typing this out, Yoshioka-sensei (the principal) says, "Who are you?" in that loud voice of his. Looking up I saw that he was looking at me. I explained that I got the dye from my parents with my Christmas stuff. He told me it's bad to have that in front of the students. I said that teachers in Canada definitely bleach their hair... Then he said "But at OUR school it's not good. Wear a hat or something." While there was definitely a part of me that was upset about being shut down and told I'm in the wrong so quickly and about something like hair, it's one of the things I really appreciate about our principal. I guess having worked for three years in Detroit has given him the ability to drop all context and just say what is on his mind like your standard westerner.

So I will keep wearing my toque for the next three days, or maybe a santa hat on Wednesday, and then I will enjoy my coloured hair for the holidays. And then maybe I'll go to black hair just before school starts again. I really like Mr. Yoshioka, and I don't want to get on his bad side at all.

I heard an illustration at one point, (maybe it was about politics or leadership?) that said when you start out with people, you have a certain amount of metaphorical change in your pocket. Every failure you make takes a little bit out, every success puts a little back in. The more you show yourself trustworthy and reliable, the more success you bring, the more metaphorical change it puts in your metaphorical pocket. Any time you rock the boat, it takes a little change out of your pocket, even though you might get it back after whatever you have started has ended. But if you rock the boat too much too fast, or have a failure too big too early and all your change runs out, you are finished. I forget what the change was meant to represent, but I guess it could be anything from patience people have with you, margin or leeway, or your image, or whatever. One way or the other, I feel like I have built up a large enough reserve of metaphorical change with the people in my school and town to get away with something like this now.
But I don't want to push it too far.

I would wager that Kocho-sensei doesn't actually mind my blue hair, but he does have a strong sense of propriety (I think he's an SJ) and blue hair in the Japanese school context doesn't sit right with him. Oh well. The cultural exchange excuse can't work on everybody, I guess. Give and take, as it were.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Enjoy It While It Lasts

Because it's not gonna stay like this forever.

(Note to Dad: Shhh!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wheee! Christmas Package Tochaku!

My package has arrivéd!

When they grasped by my shouts of "Kita kiTA!" that this was no ordinary delivery of tests, stationary, or ping-pong balls, but rather a package of gifts, I heard more than one envious, "ii na..."

It's hard to say what in the box made me the most happy.
Recently I have been eating a variety of chips here that are a lot like kettle cooked old dutch, and lo and behold there's the real deal! Now I can taste and compare! Whee! Also there were some long lost flavours in the box, too: salt and vinegar, onion and garlic, and most droolably, ketchup. To think I hated the ketchup flavour when I was a kid.
Scattered throughout the box were little packs skittles, twizzlers, swedish berries, and other gummies. Also to be found was a pack of wine gums, the ever essential advent calendar, and a pack of bassett's all-sorts. Mmmm, black licorice.
Also in the box there were pumpkin pie ingredients, but no crust. That was really thoughtful of my parents, but if I am honest with myself I will probably never actually use them... especially when we are having a church christmas dinner this sunday and someone else is already making pumpkin pies. But who could have foretold that? Perhaps I'll ask her where she scored the crusts.
But the thing which made me dance for joy was the fruitcake. I LOVE a good fruitcake. And moreso since I have come here and everyone always talks about eating christmas cake on Christmas, and they mean strawberry shortcake. It makes me yearn for a proper Christmas cake. The real deal. So when I saw that soft red-bagged package a grin splashed across my face and I picked the little half cube up and did my I'm-so-happy-I-got-Christmas-cake dance around the office.
On closer inspection, it smells very much like the Christmas cakes made by my grandmother, and the foil wrap plus tape would seem to support that. It's great timing, too. I think I'll cut half of it up into small pieces and bring it to tonight's eikaiwa Christmas party. Or maybe just a third.
Anyway, I'm not sure which grandmother made the fruitcake, but I suspect it's the same one who made the clodhoppers and almond bark also included in the box, but in any case she has out done herself! Hooray Grandma!

I carefully placed a bag over the top of the Christmas stocking so that I couldn't see the contents.
There also appears to be bag with various Christmas decorations in there, but I'll wait until I get home tonight to open that up, so I can hang stuff up right then. Sending stuff overseas being what it is, it's hard to disguise the contents of gifts with overly large packages or deceptive pointless contents. So at least I won't be totally annihilated by curiousity like I am most years at home. But I am still very eager to get to the opening! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

Thankyou everybody!

Monday, December 12, 2005

School "Marathon"

Three kilometers along a wee road that follows the Katsuura river amongst falling snow, perfect for a run.

Today was the school marathon, though in Japan the word marathon is a broad term for any long run not doable in a solid sprint. It's been snowing solid since yesterday morning but the ground temperature has stayed largely above zero, so none of the snow stays. It's merely atmospheric. It falls and falls, and falls and falls, but it doesn't stay, not even on the trees. The ground even stays mostly dry. No puddles anywhere.

The last two years' runs have been on sunny mornings, so this was pretty cold as far as tradition goes. There were sunny moments though. We only had a week of practice, due probably to the fact that we have had two days of solid tests every other week for the last month and a half. As a result, there was no way I could beat my last years' times of 14:XX and 13:11. So I just enjoyed the run, looking at the scenery and feeling the snow on my face.

The boys all run 3 km and the girls run 2 km (of course some girls don't run) with usually the girls running first and the boys waiting until they end. Due to the cold this year, they started the boys first and then the girls only a minute later. That way nobody waits for 20 minutes after running.

I don't think I could fairly say that an amazing time was had by all, but a great time was definitely had by me.

And I'm starting to wonder if God is sending the snow just for me on account of my not being able to go to either Canada or Nagano this year. It sure is lovely. You've got to remember that here is a guy who loves Winnipeg winters. How can I complain if snow is falling? Ahhhh...

The Stupid Story of Stupid Freddy the Stupid Leaf and His Stupid Fall

Did I mention that I think that story is stupid?

"The Fall of Freddy the Leaf" is the last thing in the New Horizons textbook for third year junior high kids (grade nine). Every year there are a couple of short stories in the textbooks. The two main stories in the third year text are both about death and dying. Okay, I can see the sense in having one story that deals with something serious like death, and the first one in the text is a reasonably well known tale about a tree near Hiroshima city and two children who died at its feet. I could possibly even applaud the inclusion of that story. But then they finish the book with The Fall of Freddy the Leaf, a daft story that compares the falling of a tree's leaves to people dying. It is so incredibly patronising. It's like the kind of story you would read to a five year old to help explain death. And we are doing this with 15 year old kids. Unbelievable. And it's basically the last thing they do.

Five to eight years ago they had licensed The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein for use in the texts. THAT would have been WAY better. I can't believe they got rid of it. I can only imagine that someone refused to allow them to renew the license.

And here is something that adds injury to insult: on Friday a grandparent of two of the school's students passed away. The older of the two is in the third year (ninth grade). On monday they both missed school to go to the funeral. So now we have kids dealing with death face to face, and this vapid story has become just that much more loathsome to me.

My own grandfather passed away just shy of two years ago, and I was unable to go home for the funeral. It made me wish that I had gone home that Christmas just before. The last time I spoke to my grandpa was that Christmas over the phone. We knew that he had brain cancer, so it was no great shock when he did die, and I don't think that I was affected that strongly. Even so, the last thing he said to me rang through my ears for weeks. "Eat some brown rice and pretend it's turkey!" Things you can't change.

So I have gotten to thinking about how much harder to deal with it must be for kids in junior high, especially if they weren't expecting it, and especially when you take into account that the grandparents are living at home for with many more families here. Then I realised that my other grandfather had died when I was really little, but I hardly knew him or had much idea of what was going on. Or perhaps the next thing I am going to write about happened before, offsetting the event.

When I wasn't yet in grade school, one of my friends died of leukemia. She was a year older than me, I think. My mom has told me that it was really hard on me, that seeing pictures of her would set me crying again. There is a moment from much later on where I remember remembering: another family was moving and in the course of helping I came across a photo of her and asked who it was. I think I have only three memories of her. I remember a moment walking into a back lane, (perhaps at her fourth birthday party? ) and seeing her in the midst of her friends (perhaps having lost her hair from the treatment, and perhaps my confusion). I remember the blinding sunlight. I remember walking past there again after she died and expecting to see her there. The next memory is of my dad showing me a card that she had made and telling me that she had died, of him trying to explain it. I think I remember having a hard time grasping it, and then crying a lot. And the last memory is I remember the small framed photo on the dresser at the house where that second family was moving. I'm quite convinced that all three memories are actually mine, because I don't see myself in any of them in the way that one does when one remembers something only from hearing stories about it so many times. And they don't seem the kinds of things that people would tell. In a list of significant life events, this would probably make for chronological number one. So I can't help wondering just how deeply and broadly it may have affected my life.

A reasonably common question in Japan is asking what your 初恋 first love is. Hatsukoi has a feeling of innocent elementary school love, and I get the impression that it might even count the things that come before what we would call puppy love. When I get asked, I never really know what to answer. But sometimes I wonder if it was her.

All the things that revolve around someone dying. The possibilities now cut off, the would have beens and should have saids. The what ifs. The finality. The powerlessness. The pain and painless empty feelings.

Death is so commonplace and so unusual. So obviously simple and so frustratingly complicated.

So naturally I am frustrated with the textbook publishers.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thought blocks

I suspect that the very nature of what I want to write about prevents me from being able to provide a good example. Thought blocks. Blocks that stand in the way of clear logical thought. Or perhaps blocks that stand in the way of actually considering every possibile outcome or option. Paper helps. Paper beats rock, right? Writing or planning things out on paper sometimes enables me to see an aspect that for some reason I have until then refused to consider. And it is a kind of refusal. Sometimes I am aware that there is something that I am refusing to bring into consideration, an explanation that I refuse to acknowledge as possible. It like I can feel it at the edges of my mind, trying to push into the light of conscious thought, and I can feel the thing resisting it, and often I think the thing resisting it is me. Usually it's not "something too horrible to think" but rather it seems like I refuse to allow that possiblity because the result that I get without considering it is more pleasant to me. Or if not more pleasant, then more convenient for my desires at that moment. And that is frightening.

What would happen if I end up in a group of people who all have the same thought blocks? Social disaster, at the worst, maybe a slough of selfishness at best?

I'm sure that most people have thought blocks, barriers and walls. But there are ways of minimizing their number. Being a person who generally thinks outside of his head, tsumari, a person who talks his thoughts out, I think that my Kamikatsu life has been detrimentary in that regard. Normally I used to get all my stupid thoughts countered by the people around me, but now I am around far fewer people, or at least far fewer people who reguarly challenge me.

As I think about it, there is another phenomenon in my brain that while it may be the same in effect as a thought block, results from a faulty filing system rather than an obstacle. I really appreciate people who file their thoughts in cascading trees of concepts, or neatly labeled boxes which they can sort through. As for myself my thoughts don't really get sorted or filed, they just kind of get attached like rings on a chain, or perhaps like magnets in strings. So if something is the last link or magnet on a given chain or string, the only way to get to it is to follow the line. If there is a chain being built, a keyword can sometimes form a connection to an old chain and then following the string to the end leads to a perhaps seemingly random thought. These "random thoughts" are one of my life's great joys. And this is why I don't change the system. The downside is that if someone asks me to recall something stored at the end of a chain, I have a hard time finding it. I stand there in the room of my brain amongst a floor cluttered with different chains, and I have no idea which ones have joke files stored at the end of them. Some of them are pretty easy to find, because the jokes themselves are chains, like 20 blonde jokes or lawyer jokes that all were absorbed at the same time, but nobody wants to hear those. So I give up looking. I know there are chains that have great jokes or specific stories in there somewhere, but the only way to find them is by tripping over them when some keyword has linked to it suddenly. Did I ever tell you that I heard the sound of my brain when I was in India? It sounded like a giant clock or a mill or a wooden waterworks. Unfortunately, because some of the chains never get found or used, they corrode and links fall off and there are pieces here and there that are a few links long but not connected to anything.

Maybe thought blocks and a bad filing stem from my personality. No, surely they do.

Now why the hell was I typing this in the first place?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Little Bundle of Joy

There's been a recent arrival into my family recently, bringing all sorts of joy and warmth. My little bundle of software by Adobe was delivered yesterday, and included InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, GoLive and some other little extras. We're having a gift exchange in sign language class on thursday, and I've made a mix cd to include in my gift and I had just about finished with making the linernotes the manual and long way (which of course has its own merits and resultant style), so once I got the software I went to work doing on the computer what I had just done by hand.

InDesign. Having had like two years' break from using Quark, I would probably have to spend mega time just finding where everything is again anyhow. So I pretty much feel like I'm using a QuarkXpress where all the shortcuts and locations are different. Both programs pretty much do the same thing anyway, don't they? I guess it makes sense that they are so similar. If there are any Graphic Designers reading who have used both, which do you prefer and why, or do you even have a preference anymore?

So I got the 英語版 English version of the package, and most of the programs support Kanji and kana without a hitch. I guess it makes sense which one doesn't. Can you guess? Yes, InDesign. So if I want any Japanese to be displayed I need to trace it in Illustrator and import the EPS. Bleh. Of course I don't regret getting the English version, because Japanese menus would slow everything up to no end. When learning a new program that does something I already have customs regarding, trying to decode the Japanese would make my brain explode and the brain juice would wreck my laptop. So maybe in the future I'll have to look into getting Japanese character support for the program. Surely they offer some kind addition. But I'll bet it costs as much as my Educational Edition of Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium cost. Which was 約5万円 (about $500) for $3000 of software, if you can believe it. But I doubt there is any such edu discount on something so specific, or the edu discount wouldn't be all that much.

And now I have no excuse for not having a digital camera.
Having recently cracked the outside screen on my cell phone, it's about time I looked into getting it upgraded anyway. Perhaps I have enough points now to get my next one for free. Then I could add ichiman or so to that maybe and get one with an okay camera? It would do well to be looked into.

On the topic of digicams, I saw an 8 mpxl camera the other day, which would mean that they are now at about half the resolution of a normal 35mm film. Probably a 5 or 6 would be enough for me anyways; which would be well supplemented with a medium format camera . I love having a decent camera in my cell phone. I take so many more pictures that way. Like, I'm not going to carry around a camera in my pocket all the time, but I do with my cell. But of course the phone function would end eight months from now...
I guess it depends on what I can get for how much.

I don't really have the cash to throw to a digicam right now. Sigh, I gotta replace the front tires on my car as well as a few other things... at least I shouldn't have to buy winter tires, given that we normally only get a few days of snow all year. Of course that means no driving into the west or tokushima or north of Japan or over any mountains during the winter for Matthew, but really, is that all so important?

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Shaolin Temple

Normally I would put this on my xanga blog, but I have heard too much about this movie not to mention it here. I had heard several times from Keith Miners about this crazy kung-fu movie called Shaolin Temple that his students took him to see when he was in China. When I came accross a movie called The Shaolin Temple in the Chinese action flick section at my local video store, I was agog. I had just been talking with Keith like two days before, for the first time in like a year! So of course I rented it. I looked at the dude on the cover and I was like, "Man that looks like Jet Li," but with a close inspection of the actors list, there were several people named Li, but none named Jet. But when I was watching the movie I was like, "Man that really looks like Jet Li. But this movie is from 1982! That would mean Jet li would have had to have been born in the 60's sometime. Is he really 20 years older than me? Like 45? I guess I can't tell Asian people apart as well as I thought." But on investigation this morning it turns out that his real name is Lee Lien Jie, and his first movie was The Shaolin Temple.

Now as for the movie itself, Keith had hyped it as being so full of kung-fu action that it made his head spin, or something to that effect. Taking into account that kung-fu flicks don't seem Keith's regular fare, and taking into account that it was probably more than 15 years ago that he was in China that time, I didn't expect anything all that superlatively amazing. But boy was I wrong. So much amazing beautiful kung-fu, so much superlatively cool fighting. It may very well be the best kung-fu movie I have ever seen. It turns out that Li was born in 63, so he was 19 when he made this movie. More impressive is that he won the national Wushu (proper term for kung-fu(?), japanese= "bujutsu") championships when he was eleven, twelve, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen.

I'll bet I understood more than Keith did when he saw it. While the DVD didn't have English or English subs, with the Japanese and Japanese subs I was able to understand most of the movie. Maybe I should give House of Daggers a chance...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

December Rain, December Snow

Friday feels like it occurred an age ago. Perhaps that's because the view out the windows of the school looked so very different then.

On Friday night I went to a friend's birthday party, and there were a lot of people there. Normally I would have enjoyed myself more and talked to way more people, but I think that with Sunday's impending test I was in a bit of a grumpy/stressed/faithless mood and I didn't really want to be at any party with anyone. Nonetheless it was still alright, all things considered. On Saturday I made sure I got lots of sleep, bought a 100 yen watch to keep time in the test, did some other errands, and studied and crashed at Colin and Jenny's in Komatsushima.

I didn't manage to get to sleep until after twelve, I'm sure.

Sunday found us waking up at just after 5 am, and Colin made us all some porridge. We were out the door just after six to go meet up with Jonny Lawless on the train. Three trains, three hours, and 3300 yen later we were at the test site way up in Kagawa prefecture's Takamatsu city at the Agricultural Division of one of the universities. The test was in three sections: kanji and vocab, listening, and reading and grammar, in that order.

There is a massive wait after they pass out all the test booklets and marksheets (ten to fifteen minutes) and that time was practically enough to drive me mad as a March hare. I was so incredibly nervous that when they announced the start time my fingers could barely open the question booklet. Once I started answering, I practically laughed with glee! I was able to go SO FAST I could barely believe it. I finished the 35 minute test with five minutes to spare which let me go over my test again and change some answers. I know I got some wrong from talking to others after, but I also know I got some guesses right from my dictionary. So I felt really good after that kanji and vocab section, as though I had an 80%, though it's possibly lower than it felt.

Next was the listening. Last year, when I failed the test my marks were: kanji and vocab 49/100, listening 70/100, reading and grammar 81/200, total 200/400. A passing grade is 240/400, or 60%. So it was the listening last year that pulled my mark up enough to look like 50%. I was pretty confident going in. From talking to others, I am pretty sure I got four of the 27 questions wrong, but I could still come out of that with an 80%, depending depending depending. So I was a bit disappointed, because I wanted 100% on that section this year, and I know I didn't get it, but there are no tears. I was giddy enough after the test to even laugh at Jon's comments about [SHOCK] being raped by the kanji test but having bent the listening test over his desk. [/SHOCK]* Dan B was appalled at Jon's foul mouth and in my giddyness at having done so well I think I said something really foolish. [/regret]

((*maybe not so shocking if you spend any time hanging out with Jon.))

So when it came to the reading/grammar section of the test, the longest at 70 minutes, I was in a great frame of mind. Last year, I was unable to finish the test because my reading speed just couldn't keep up. I had a bunch of questions where I just picked an answer and filled them all in the same. And I really didn't understand the reading at all then either. Since then I have read two harry potter books in Japanese as well as starting on a regualr Japanese book and having no great diffuculties. So I figured I was going to do much better this year. And I did. I had studied a lot of grammar before the test, so I hoped I would score really well on that, but when it came to it there were still a lot of questions where I was uncertain. And of course it's pick the BEST answer, not the RIGHT answer. So grammar was the section on the test I have the least certainty about now, but I don't feel like I bombed it. As for the reading, which I left to the end though it comes first, while it still would have helped more if I had read more before now, but this time I was able to answer every question giving it some reasonable thought. I think I may have even gotten the last question, the graph question, right despite having only three minutes to read the stuff and look at the graph. I filled in my answer with less than half a minute remaining in the test. Just enough time to flip to the beginning and start to glance at that first hard question again before the timer went.

So I think I passed.

That's my tale of doing alright on the test, but Jon, my goodness did he school that test. He did the highest level, the level one (I did level 2) and he finished the reading and grammar with 30 minutes to spare, if you can believe it. It also sounds like Jenny certainly passed her level 3 test, and Colin passed his level 4.

Did I mention how cold it was in Takamatsu? It was really cold in the morning. Windy and wet in the way of a town right on the ocean. It was still cold in the afternoon when we had finished the tests. And it was raining. Cold December rain. An onsen would have hit the spot. Waiting in the rain for our first train, Jon was wishing it would just snow already, and Jenny was wishing for a day off on Monday. Before our second train we stopped at Mister Donuts at Takamatsu station for some warm soup and sweet snacks. Two trains and two hours later we were back in Komatsushima at eight. Colin and Jenny made some nice ramen for dinner and I made my way home at 9:30. On the drive home, I got Jonny's wish. It was snowing. Snow is so nice. I really like the snow, even if it means that it takes three hours to heat my apartment from 5 degrees to 18 degrees. While my apartment warmed, I relaxed to Mimi wo Sumaseba, and my Dad called. Into bed at about one.

At seven am this morning I got Jenny's wish too. I was awoken by the ringing of my phone. I opened my eyes to the beauty of snow covered trees, houses and mountains. Awesome. The phone was the teacher I work with, Ms. Masui calling to tell me that school was cancelled because there is no way the school bus could make it up the hill to the school in 4 cm of snow, but to come if I could. This means I got to sleep in until eleven and come to school at noon. It almost like Christmas. The atmosphere in the office on a snow day is fun, and the snow covered trees and hills put me at great ease. It is the perfect follow up day to the test.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Just Plain Weird

When I picked East Shikoku as my first choice for where to go in Japan, part of that was a desire to live in a place where undesirable insects can get into my domicile. I wanted to learn how to deal with that, as it doesn't really come up in winnipeg, except for perhaps the odd fly spider or mosquito. Since coming here I have had to get used to the occasional cockroach coming in under my door or through a space in a window, or the occasional mukade coming up from the tatami or in through a window, as well as a variety of summer bugs which inevitably make their way in. What I have now is an unexplainable infestation. Of what, you ask? Tentoumushi. Ladybugs. I know they are a winter bug here, and I did have a few last year, always one or two hanging around, or sleeping in the corner of the ceiling. I thought they came in through my heater (the aircon on heat setting). This year is a bit more extreme. Two days in a row I have taken thirty+ tentoumushi off of my ceiling. Thirty each day. Where did they come from? I've let it go for the last couple of days, but probably tonight there will be another thirty or so to collect. It wasn't until I had so many, or until I had handled so many, that I realised they have a distinct smell. A very beetle-ish smell at that, kind of like a weak kabuto-mushi kind of smell. There have also been a couple of kame-mushi (turtle-bug) which are a variety of stink bug whose stink is describable as acidic celery, but I know they can only get in my open door or kitchen window.

A lot of bugs come in my kitchen window. It's not so much the window's fault as it is the persimmon tree just outside the window. Bugs like the tree. The tree touches the wall below or above my window. Bugs smell my kitchen. They come in to investigate. (not that my kitchen smells or anything...)

Anyway, I was talking to someone recently who mentioned that they saw on the news that there is a massive ladybug problem this year, and there were pictures of ant-like or cockroach-like black veins of ladybugs on people's walls, and honeybee-like baseball sized clusters of ladybugs in the corners. Ladybugs here seem to be predominantly the black with red spots kind, though you do see the red with black spots from time to time.

In case you are wondering, my apartment was clean before the infestation started, and has stayed reasonably clean for its duration so far. So it's not like they are breeding in something I have left unwashed or something.

The tentoumushi infestation tops this month's charts for weirdness.