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[personal profile] littlesaru
My record for updates is abysmal. I’m ashamed of myself, especially since I made a resolution to update at least once a week. I don’t seem to be doing very well.

Well, in the last two weeks I’ve managed to;
a) be something of a hermit (alright, more than something)
b) organise, set up and then execute the plan for a Speaking Exam in my base school. More on that to follow
c) not do much in the way of writing or drawing
d) discover that my scanner is incompatible with my new computer (you what? Why? Since when? Answers not forthcoming)
e) Read a book
f) not write the reviews for various stories that I promised myself I would
g) learn a little sumi-e (which is different from shoudou but uses the same tools and involves the same teacher). Was actually quite successful for someone who doesn’t have an artistic bone in her body
h) eat too much chocolate (sudden craving after two months without… I was doing so well too L
i) die of having too many hobbies and not enough time (as Joules say “I need more haddock!”)

Re; (b). I’m feeling very proud of myself. I feel that this pride is justified. I proposed the idea (why have speaking lessons if you don’t ever test the students on it, I ask you?), designed the test, prepared the students (and the teachers) and then marked over 140 dialogues in tandem with my Team Teacher of the day. The entire project has taken four weeks and the only reason I was allowed to do it was because I promised to take on all the extra workload for it. As in, making the worksheets, being available after school to coach the student with intonation and pronunciation, make the exam procedure and design a handout for the students to explain it, set the marking criteria and then mark the ruddy things.

For the last two weeks I’ve been getting home just in time to eat dinner and then run out to whichever hobby I do on that particular night. My official hours are 8.30am to 4.15pm with a 45 minute lunch time. Yes, I know they’re limited and I have it easy, but this means that the Japanese government can classify me as a “Special Employee” which means that I’m not entitled to bonuses or a salary increase, no matter how long I work for them. Bear in mind that in Japan they do not seem to have the concept of ‘overtime’ and even if they did I would not be eligible. All extra activities I do are considered “voluntary.” Despite the fact that I essentially have no choice some instances. The above being a case in point. So getting home at 8.15pm some nights is not a happy thing for me. However I did it, the test was a success, some of the students were really excellent and I’m happy about it. A thank you would have been nice, however.

Enough of mundanity, on to the fun stuff!

Monday the 20th of December was a work-day, so I left my brother in the capable hands of my friends. Or at least I thought I did. Except we got our wires crossed, and I didn’t. We agreed they’d meet after lunch. Both my brother and I thought that would mean around 2 o’clock at the latest. By the time 2.40 rolled around he got bored of waiting and decided to wander out on his own. This would not normally be a problem, but he did not have a working mobile, failed to call me from my house to mention he would not be in and where he was going, and conveniently forgot that I had organised for us to have dinner with the teacher we were going to have a Homestay with and the one who organised the Homestay at 6 o’clock. I get home at 5.30 from my visiting school, and brother is not home. Fair enough, think I, he’s still with A and M. I’ll just give them a call and he’ll be home in a jiffy.But it is not to be so easy for he is not with A or with M, and not only had A seen him wondering around, but she’d also given him directions to a shop, not thinking that perhaps a call to either M or to myself would have been in order, and conveniently sending my brother further away from home. I was not impressed. I ring the organising teacher to tell her we’ll be late and then drive around my town looking for inconsiderate brother. Needless to say he got a scolding when I eventually found him. Quite a long one, at that…

Tuesday was also a work-day but this time brother did meet up with M, and did get to see shrines and temples and other things of interest without getting lost. Relief was uppermost in my thoughts. I had an obligatory work party to attend that evening, so I left a pile of anime and manga for brother to indulge himself in and went off to endure self-congratulatory speeches in incomprehensible keigo and eat some rather average food. However all my teachers very obligingly got drunk and normally staid and sober individuals became hugely amusing. Gave a lift home to the teacher whose daughters I teach every other Tuesday since he lives all of five minutes drive away. Then collapsed into bed early and slept.

Wednesday also boring-ish, except for the calligraphy lesson where my teacher and the ladies who ‘study’ (read; gossip) in the class all oohed and aahed over my brother and pronounced the two of us to be ‘かしこい 兄弟’ Brother is an artist, in case I haven’t mentioned, and he’s good with ink and brushes and all sorts so the use of the brush came naturally to him. The kanji, however, did not. Heh. Most amusing. He had a great time, attempted some Japanese (I hope I didn’t sound quite that awkward when I was first learning the language… however, I suspect I sounded worse. How embarrassing). So Wednesday was a success, but a late night. Which leads to the day after, for which we really should have got more sleep.

Thursday. National Holiday. Free to do as we please. So we get up at stupid o’clock, drove to Y, parked car, caught train. Went to Himeji. Home of Himeji castle. Plus an Art Museum, an Historical Museum and so on. Himeji-jou is one of the best castles in Japan, still built in its original materials (although obviously restored) and definitely deserves its other name. The sheer elegance of the place is astounding; it certainly doesn’t look as though it was built for defence, although it really was one of the best of its kind in its time. The walls all arch up into the air and somehow give the effect of the place being somewhat ethereal. It gives the impression of a spire without actually being a spire. It’s also huge. Each floor gets progressively smaller as you go up the main body of the building until you reach the very top. The wind up there is amazing and so is the view. You can see all across Himeji city until your eye hits the mountains. (Bear in mind that in Japan it is only in Hokkaido that you can see the horizon – the rest of the country is so mountainous that horizons simply do not occur).

Then there are the outlying buildings. The principle of which is the former home of a Princess and wife to one of lords who owned the castle. It was built to house her and her entourage of ladies. I didn’t count how many rooms there were, but there were an awful lot. Imagine, that many high-born ladies attending to their Princess, and then factor in the servants who actually did all the heavy work and you have a huge amount of people living in a single place simply because a particular woman married a particular man. Incredible.

After the castle brother bought some souvenirs as presents for people and then we headed off for lunch. Katsu-don is deliciously yummy but hugely unhealthy and pretty much precisely what we were looking for. So of course the fact that we found a place specialising in same was rather serendipitous. We also found a sweet little antique shop and bought both Mum and Dad their presents – a lovely little figurines of a Noh player, and a carved tiger. I’m told that on receiving them there was much rapture.

We had a couple of hours to kill so we headed out to find the History Museum. Only to find that, since it is a National museum, it was closed for the holiday. The logic in this decision escapes me. We went to the art museum instead and became engrossed in a lovely little exhibition of works by a Japanese artist, the name of whom I can’t recall at the moment. It will come to me.

Then it was hop back onto the train, into Osaka, transfer to Kyoto, transfer to Y, and drive back home. By the end of it all I was exhausted but it was a hugely fulfilling day. Much happiness.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday to come. Probably next week.

Am off to a conference in Yokohama where much boredom will ensue but also much shopping and sightseeing. So Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are all non-internet days. I’ll be getting my brother’s birthday present while I’m there and see about adding some more filling to a certain box that has been sitting waiting to be posted for over three months now. It’s just so big and spacious a box and it really needs to be filled just a tiny bit more…
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August 2007


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