Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My Father Is With Grass(...?)

Actually, I think the student who wrote that really meant to say, "My father wears glasses," but it's hard to say, though. I've been having my 7th grade classes write more English compositions recently, and some of the things they write are just plain surreal. Consider the following:

"My grandfather is no hair." [THAT'S certainly a relief!]
"My mother is a house." [NOW you have a problem...]
"My uncle works in a dentist." [I'd hate to see the poor dentist...or does your uncle have a shrink-ray?]
"My little brother is a junior high school student. He is thirty years old." [B-b-but you're a twelve-year-old 7th grader! Is your little brother a reincarnation or a time traveler??!?]
"My brothers are a college." [Oh, really? How much do they charge for tuition? I'm afraid to ask what major courses they offer...]
"I wash my faith every morning." [Bless you, my child!]

Needless to say, I have a great time reading those compositions...except for the occasional ache in my sides.

Speaking of surreal, this has been quite a day. It basically went as follows:

6:20 a.m. - I got up feeling seriously worried. We'd had rain and even a little snowfall the night before, and it was bloody FREEZING. I was seriously afraid the rain-slicked pavement was going to freeze solid. It didn't. It actually warmed up a bit, or so it felt. Reassured, I helped my wife hang up the laundry and get breakfast ready.

7:30 a.m. - I managed to get out of the house more or less on time, something that has proven difficult recently. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of people afraid of ice on the streets, so traffic was moving at a crawl. I quickly got off the main road and onto the back roads, found them beautifully empty, and managed to get to Ye Olde Academy with time to spare...for a change.
As soon as I rolled into the campus it started to of those light, pervasive, misty rains that are one of nature's ways of making you hate life. Seasoned Oregonian that I am, I didn't even bother getting out my umbrella.
The morning meeting was dominated by events surrounding the recently-deceased teacher, and the whole atmosphere was rather grim. Actually, the whole school seemed darker than usual, and it was easy to understand why.
After the morning meeting the deputy principal handed me a copy of an e-mail he'd just gotten from a school in Australia (not our existing sister-school, a different one) with an indication he wanted me to translate it for him. We'd been in contact with that school discussing the possibility of an exchange, but we hadn't heard from them for more than six months and had assumed the project was dead. Apparently it revived itself. (Zombie sister school!?!) I set to work translating the e-mail, but I was kind of confused. After all, I'd tendered my resignation from the International Committee and had been told (a bit too quickly and easily for my liking...almost as if they'd been waiting for it all along) that my resignation had been understood and accepted. Apparently not. At this point I have no idea what's going on.

My two morning classes both went better than usual.

12:40 a.m. - Wednesdays are usually only a half day for me since Saturday morning is my "training/prep time" (i.e. I'm "on call"). Most of the time I at least wait until the start of 5th period before taking off so as to avoid awkward encounters with students (or getting grabbed for some extra work). Today, however, I had an important errand to run. The English user's manual for my new Roland SonicCell had arrived at the music store in Narita, and today was a perfect chance for me to go and get it. Unfortunately, I got stuck with some important business later in the afternoon, so that meant timing was critical. As soon as my 4th period class ended, I jumped into my BLUE RAV4 and headed out. Naturally, it started raining harder as soon as I got on the Higashi Kanto Expressway headed south. That meant driving slow, making my schedule even more insanely tight than it already was.
When I'd made it as far as Taiei, about halfway to Narita, the driving rain gradually turned into driving snow. It was then that I started to wonder if going to Narita had been a seriously bad idea. Fortunately, the snow didn't accumulate.

1:30 p.m. - Even with the snow and fraying nerves, I managed to get to the Aeon Shopping Mall in Narita in reasonable time. I went straight to the music store and asked about my order.
It took a while for the young woman at the counter to get her act together, but when she did I found I'd been given good service by that shop yet again. Roland has always been really good about making English-language manuals easily obtainable for its products, but they also charge extra for them. I know this because I've ordered such things from them before. However, this time I was given a loose-leaf, ring-note copy of the English manual for free! That was bizarre, and I can only think that it was a sample copy the shop had had lying around in its back room. (Either that or they downloaded it off the internet and printed it up for me using good-quality paper and a laser printer. Roland apparently made the English version of the manual available for free download in pdf format that very day! Sneaky. When I checked their website myself the week before it was definitely NOT free!) I won't complain, though. Free is a very reasonable price. It's not the first time that shop has done something like that for me, either. I have come wanting to buy tools for my instruments only to have them hand me a spare one they had lying around and say, "Here. Keep it!" That's why I keep going to that shop.
I had hoped to do some other shopping both at the music store and a couple other shops at the mall, but mindful as I was of both the time and the snow, I decided to cut my visit short. I hopped in my car again. Even despite the still-falling snow, I didn't get far before I wound up deciding to take a not-so-little detour.

Snow on Aeon
View atop Aeon Shopping Mall looking toward Narita Temple. It's hard to see in this cellphone pic, but it was snowing at the time.

1:50 p.m. - Instead of going straight back to the Narita interchange, I headed a few kilometers further south to the sleepy town of Tomisato. Not far from the Tomisato interchange is a store called P.C. Depot, a chain of computer stores that is sadly lacking in this part of Japan. I popped in there to see if I could find anything useful I hadn't found in my local electronics shops. After a bit of stewing I picked up a copy of the latest version of "Finale" (music-writing and MIDI performance software) and a few useful widgets. Then I got back in the BLUE RAV4 and headed back to Ye Olde Academy. By now the snow had stopped, so I ignored the rain and pushed my speed a bit.

3:00 p.m. - I got back to the school and immediately went to work translating that e-mail from Australia. It wasn't long before the time came for a meeting I had to attend. You see, today was the day for the otsuya (usually translated as "wake" or "vigil" the day before the actual funeral) for the teacher that died last weekend. I was one of the teachers that had volunteered to help, and the meeting was the planning session. The meeting didn't last long, so I immediately went back and immersed myself in the translation job. With only minutes left before I was due to help with the wake, I rushed the finished translation to the deputy principal, who expressed his surprise at my quickness...and then said I hadn't really needed to do it in the first place. Apparently he'd only wanted me to read it and understand what was going on. Whatever...

5:00 p.m. - My job at the wake was directing traffic. Specifically, I was posted at the exit from a hospital parking lot that was to be borrowed for the wake. I was stationed there from 5:00 to 5:30, which was early enough that I really didn't have to do much. Mainly I just stood there shivering under my umbrella gripping one of those flickering traffic-signal flashlights. It was bloody COLD out there, and I was thankful I was told I could do it in my regular "civvies". When my relief showed up at about 5:40 I ran to my nearby BLUE RAV4, climbed into the back seat, and proceeded to change into my false tuxedo so I could attend the wake.
I'd changed into formal wear in my car before, but this time it was BLOODY COLD!!!! So was the walk to the house where the wake would be held.

5:50 p.m. - I attended the wake for the deceased coworker. Be careful with the terminology; a Japanese "wake" is nothing like its Irish counterpart. It is a very solemn affair in which each individual attendee bows before the bereaved family members and then offers a prayer and incense before the (thankfully closed) casket, which is decked out in flowers, gifts, a photo of the deceased, and the urn that his ashes will later occupy. They asked the teachers to come before the official starting time of 6:00, so there wasn't much of a wait. As it turned out, I was the last one to pay my respects before the actual wake started. It was a good thing, too; there were a LOT of guests waiting outside the house, most of them students. I threaded my way through the gathering throng, got back in my car, and went straight home.

6:45 p.m. - I forgot to throw salt over myself before going into my house. My wife had a fit. In Japan people are very squeamish about taking proper precautions to avoid being haunted or possessed. (It's probably already too late in my case, but anyway...) Luckily I'd gone no further than Tora's kitty potty box. If a spirit did latch on to me and hitch a ride into my home, I'm sure that smell drove it away! A far bigger problem was the fact that I'd come home far earlier than my family had thought, so my father-in-law was sitting at my place at the table, and there was no food for me. The situation was eventually rectified. Feeling in a strange mood, I drank sake (rice wine) with my dinner instead of my usual beer, wine, or cocktail. Sake is a bit stronger than regular wine and a lot stronger than beer. I only had one cup, but it put me right to sleep after dinner. I wound up sleeping through two of the few TV programs I actually like. Oh, well. It's not like I don't have enough other things to play with my new studio toys! :-)

What a day. What a positively surreal day. Hopefully I'll have a crack at reality over the next week or two.


  • A fish

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 6:00 AM  

  • I wash my faith every morning - I like that one, and I might use it in the church newsletter. Okay?
    What a day that has been, what a rare mood I'm in... - wow- the excitement of ice, rain, snow, the shifts between shopping and formal wakes. Yeah, that's life alright.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 11:22 AM  

  • Happy Sunday :)

    By Blogger Selba, at 6:32 PM  

  • Don

    Oh, by all means use it in your church newsletter! I thought it was cute. A lot of those student errors are.

    All the same to you and more! :)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:21 PM  

  • Haha, the top section is hilarious, thanks for the giggle.

    I'm always worried about bringing spirits home when I visit cemetaries/funeral homes. When I was in Canada, a group of us took a drive to the place where my goddaughter's father is buried, and I kept her in the car most of the time, but to no avail in the end as my cousin's friends then proceeded to troop the baby out to the graveside. They don't believe in spirits so I couldn't say much.

    Thankfully safe so far.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:30 AM  

  • The Chinese have rituals too. The most common one is to bathe with water that has pomelo leaves immersed in it. Pomelo leaves serve as a cleansing agent as well as warding off evil spirits. The pomelo plant (just like a pomegranate plant) is considered a sacred plant and that pregnant and menstruating women are not to touch any part of it.

    I remember a neighbour used to have a pomelo plant and one day a pregnant lady went to pluck some leaves. That season, every pomelo fruit had a split at the base of the fruit. Weird but true. I was totally amazed looking up at the fruits! Needless to say, my neighbour wasn't amused.

    You know the picture of the view atop Aeon Shopping Mall could well be taken here at our Jaya Jusco (used to be Aeon) mall. The only difference is the pagoda-like structure in the background, whereas here, it could be the Petronas Twin Towers. I wonder if this is Aeon/Jusco's building design worldwide.

    The English compositions are hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 7:05 PM  

  • Olivia
    I tried very hard to be an objective, scientifically-minded type with regard to the supernatural, but life keeps trying to prove me wrong.

    Thanks for the info about the pomelo plant in Chinese culture. That's fascinating! It's also interesting that pregnant and menstruating women aren't allowed to touch it. It seems that pregnancy and menstruation are considered "impure" in a lot of ancient religions including the Mayan religion, Shinto, and Judeo-Islam. (It technically is in Christianity, too, but the old laws have been considered largely irrelevant since the Romans rewrote them.)

    Yes, the Aeon/Jusco mall in Mito is different in layout and slightly different in style, but it still has the same basic appearance. I'm sure Aeon/Jusco has a standardized, mass-produced design for their shopping centers. It would save money on the design process, after all!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:40 AM  

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