I’ve been busy. Okay, for a few days there, I wasn’t doing a whole lot – I had a cold, it was wet and nasty outside, I didn’t feel like walking about in it. But the weather has taken a turn for the better, and life is taking off!

Last week, I was annoyed with the company, because they weren’t telling me about my schedule. Wednesday night I finally got the official word: Be at SJH on Friday, SS on Monday, for Tuesday standby. So they sent me maps and directions because I don’t have my car yet, and I figured out how to get myself to SJH (because that’s the one that involves a tram, a ferry, and a bus, instead of just a tram) only to find out that I can’t actually get there by tram for 8:00am, so they’ve booked me a taxi which I can claim back at the end of the month.

Friday was … extremely boring, punctuated by moments of fear and anxiety.

I got there at 8, everybody was very friendly, but … there’s not a lot of English. Correction: a few people speak very well, but most are about on par with my Japanese.

So I spent the morning sitting around unearthing the crap in my desk – the last several years worth of worksheets, flashcards, outdated textbooks, and dried up inkpads for cheerful stamps – except for 30 seconds of self intro to the teachers, and then about an hour of Opening Ceremony. Of which I understood again, approximately 30 seconds – the thirty seconds in which I was speaking – because all the rest was in super fast Japanese. I bowed in all the right places, except for once. I stood around awkwardly as they sang something that might have been the school song, or might have been the national anthem – I have no idea what Japan’s national anthem is.

I had nothing to do in the afternoon at all, except for a short meeting (hm, maybe 20 minutes? 15?) about what I would be doing for my first lesson and how far along the students were, and a nice tour of the school by the principal.

The principal speaks very little English, but is also very nice – he offered to give me a dictionary to help me study, but I told him I already had one. (I do. I just don’t study as much as I should.) I didn’t see anybody actually learning – their classroom doors must have been closed – but I did see kids in a lot of different clubs. There were kids – mostly girls, surprisingly – kitted out for Kendo, boys in Judo, girls practicing volleyball and boys playing ping-pong. There were also a lot of kids practicing instruments – it didn’t seem to be a coordinated band/orchestra, but there would be, say, 4 girls with saxophones, or trumpets, or trombones, or drums. Most of the musicians were girls. There were also people outside running around playing sports.

The kids seemed surprisingly interested in me – they must really have liked my predecessor. One girl told me her favorite subject was English. She might have been sucking up, but all the girls doing music stopped when I walked by with the Principal, were interested in chatting, introducing themselves, and smiled a lot. It was pretty cute.

God. They were so… little. It was kinda freaky. Especially the 7th graders. (Jr. High here is 7th through 9th. The 9th graders seemed a little closer to adult-hood, but wow. 7th graders were SO TINY. And sort of adorable.)

Backtracking to Thursday, I completely failed to figure out the bus system of Imizu and ended up walking something like 7 km in my cute wedges because at first, I kept thinking “Surely there must be a stop just up ahead! I saw the bus I want PASS ME, it must stop somewhere!” and then, I didn’t want to just turn around because frankly, I needed to get to the cell phone store SOMEHOW and what else was I going to do? Take a taxi? (I had to get to the mobile store because I accidentally locked my phone to a pin number, and then when it asked me for a pin, I put in the wrong one three times. You have to take it back to a store and bat your eyes and smile like a Stupid Gaijin, and then they roll their eyes and unlock it for you.)

I actually went to a cell phone store slightly closer than 7 km away, but I knew that there was a bus stop at the train station (no train near my appt, sadly, but still a good landmark) so I ended up walking even further to save myself walking all the way back. This was a partial success – the bus that I thought went nearly all the way to my appt only actually went about 2/3 of the way home, and I ended up walking the rest of the way in the dark.

Before anybody freaks out, Imizu is really safe.

Also, I met my fellow teacher at Kosugi Station, we hung out for a while, and I told her I’d call as soon as I got back, or if I had any problems, because she speaks a lot more Japanese. Which I did, and she was waiting for my call.

Today, I did not go to the Akai Lion Dance festival – it was the plan, but that plan got sidetracked when I was invited to a party at a nice park in Takaoka. I asked around, and people seemed to think that the festival would still be going on tomorrow – I’ll try again tomorrow. Today was really fun anyway – we sat around eating snacks and drinking beer (okay, I was too lazy to go to the combini and get beer or sake or other alcohol, but that’s okay because I’m not much of a drinker anyway) and occasionally getting interrupted by Really Drunk Japanese. There were a lot of us – mostly JETs, but a couple other Interac people I think, mostly Canadians and Americans – probably about twenty. A group of random Japanese bankers joined us at one point, and a couple older gentlemen who were clearly WASTED would come over and try to speak English to us and/or serenade the group.

Some of the others were in that mindset of “Everytime we get together we get harassed by people wanting to have free Japanese lessons, this is sooo tedious” but fortunately, I am not. I was just amused by the randomness of these people, and happy to be out in the sunshine and enjoying the beauty of the cherry trees which are almost, but not quite, in bloom. It was a good day.