Okay, I’ve been… busy isn’t the right word. But I’ve been having fun.

Over the past week, I’ve been a little disenchanted with the whole “teaching” thing – my Japanese teachers weren’t letting me do much at all, and only one class had something that was fun going on. There’s a big test coming up (this week!) so they were preparing, but it made things boring for me. Also, one time she sprung something on me as I walked into the classroom – she wanted me to ask them some simple questions to start class.

But that’s not actually as easy as it sounds – it’s like making small talk, except that they have an extremely limited vocabulary. I need a second to come up with questions that they’ll understand and be capable of answering.

But I had a really good weekend.

It started out right with Friday – for whatever reason, they didn’t need me in the afternoon at my school, so I got to leave after lunch. Then, I had dinner with the teachers at my other school. They’d finally invited me to an enkai, a drinking party. (Awesome!) It happened to be within easy walking distance of my other ALT in Kosugi, which even meant that I could actually drink because Japan has an absolutely no tolerance policy about drinking and driving. So I stuck my futon in the back of my car, and spent the night on her floor in as much comfort as if I were in my own bed. (Futons are CRAZY CONVENIENT like that.)

There was a tiny moment of awkward when I ordered sake, because first they were like “Sake? Really?” and then I noticed that only the men were drinking alcohol. (Official reason: all the ladies had to drive home. Apparently all the guys were getting cabs. Probable reality: some sort of stigma about either mothers/wives going home drunk without their husbands there, or ladies drinking, or girls going back to their parents a little drunk, or whatever. As a gaijin, I get a pass on some of these social transgressions.)

Also, then I accidentally thought that the sake somebody passed me was mine and it was really somebody else’s drink. (Oops.) They laughed a lot when I turned approximately the color of a boiled lobster.

They had very reasonable food though – a nice salad that was kept cold using dry ice (whee!), some fried chicken bits and some tempura shrimp, and a sort of boring spaghetti thing. Then a dish that the Japanese have adapted from Western food called “Omu-rice” – it’s sort of a “rice omelette” except that often it’s just rice, with a flat no-filling omelette plopped on top, and then with a funny sauce. This time, there was also a hamburger involved (but a Japanese style hamburger, which is a lot more like meatloaf.) (Yeah, okay, but it’s a lot tastier than it sounds.) (I know, I know, not hard.) The culinary star of the evening was a beef dish that involves a long thin chunk of beef that’s just barely seared, sliced very thin and covered with a sauce. It’s served cold – sometimes a little frozen. It’s delicious.

The culinary failure of the evening was the natto-rice. Natto is an interesting and very traditional Japanese food, and is otherwise known as fermented soybeans. It’s sort of like Japan’s answer to Marmite: people either love it or hate it, and aren’t particularly inclined to be swayed in their opinions. Natto alone is a sludgy, slimy, lumpy brown substance approximately the color of baby poop and with a distinctly snotty texture. It’s highly identifiable. Mixed into rice, however, it’s easily camouflaged. They served it to me without actually telling me what it was, and I had a bite or two. Then I asked, and they were like “NATTO! SURPRISE!” and I was like “OH. I see.” And then I put the plate aside and didn’t feel at all bad about not finishing it.

I confess, that if I were stranded on a desert island with nothing but natto to eat – or at least the more innocuous natto-rice – I would indeed eat it, at least after scouring the island for other edible items. However, I would not knowingly pay money for the penalty of consuming it.

The party finished at about nine, so I walked back to my friend’s house and we went over to the book store and the second hand store (both of which are open late) and on the way I got an ice cream from the Baskin Robbin’s store she lives very very close to. (It’s a very good thing that I don’t live where she lives. A VERY GOOD THING.)

On Saturday, we ended up going to Toyama. She was looking for jeans, and I was just window shopping, except that I ended up spending kind of a lot of money, actually. (My tactical error was going to the Toyama Daiwa, which is much more awesome than the Takaoka Daiwa.) I spent some time in the bookstore on the top floor while she was figuring out that everything in Daiwa is outside her budget, and I ended up buying a translation of a Japanese book called Kamikazi Girls, which looked fun and which my friend said she enjoyed. There was a surprisingly good selection. We skipped all the other floors because of the high prices, but got sucked into the basement level, where I promptly spent about $25 on cheese. (They had beautiful cheese. Brie and cheddar and mozz and edam and gruyere and blue and and and… so delicious. I bought brie and gruyere, which were relatively cheap at $5 and $7 per 100g, as compared to the cheddar at $12.50/100g and some of the others which were even higher.)

Remind me, again, why I didn’t move to Italy or France, where the cheese selection is tremendous and cheap?

And then I ogled the DS consoles at a different store, which I keep trying to convince myself I will a) actually use, and b) be willing to purchase games for, etc, etc. So my friend has graciously allowed me to borrow her DS, because she also has (here, in Japan) a Wii, and a PSP, and I don’t even know what else.

Which meant I spent all of Sunday (after waking up) playing Zelda: the Phantom Hourglass.

I may or may not need a DS for Christmas or my birthday. I am undecided. (Mom, dad: stay tuned for updates concerning this situation.)

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