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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Here Comes The Rain Again


There's a typhoon blowing through Japan - or more importantly, through my city of Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan - today, Thursday, September 19, 1991.

I'm from Toronto, Canada. We don't get typhoons, tsunami or earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. We get snow - not a lot of it, mind you. People are of the misconception that Canada is a vast wasteland of ice and snow, that we use sled dogs to get to work and then back to our igloo homes... or that we just got electricity 10 years ago. Some people actually believe that crap.

Some people in Canada do live like that - but that's only during the winter a way up north near the Arctic Circle. Toronto is actually more southernly than many parts of the U.S. - and I'm not just talking about Alaska!

Snow... we get some snow - and yes, it's cold... but we're actually just above a so-called snow-belt that dumps snow on Buffalo in the US. Yes, we maybe get 8-inches of snow in a storm... and maybe only have three or fours storms a year... but that's it. We still walk to work or school - we just dress warmly. Sometimes I even wear gloves - but never a hat! That would mess up my hair.

And as far as snow and Ohtawara... This past winter  1990-92, we got a lot of snow... the difference is it melts in two days, unlike Toronto where it tends to stay until March. And cold? You bet. Inside it feels colder as there does not seem to be a lot of insulation between the walls in Japanese buildings. I asked about that once, and was told that because of the humidity in the Spring, Summer and Fall, Japanese building don't have insulation and are not as air-tight so as to allow the building to breath. If you are cold, use a kotasu, electric blanket and/or a gas heater - just remember to open a window to vent the gas. So... I'm supposed to open a window to vent the gas... but doesn't the open window let more cold in? Yup. Welcome to Japan.

I complained about how cold I was, and my office - the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) purchased a combination heater/air-conditioner that was very powerful... and I never sweat or froze again - unless I left the confines of my apartment. True.

This is just to tell you that I had never seen natural disasters or weather like what Japan has at any time before in my life.

Oh - and the number of times Godzilla has gone stomping through Ohtawara-shi looking for Mothra!? It's ridiculous... I mean, my first experience with a Godzilla-like creature was a single cockroach in my apartment the day I moved in 13+ months ago. Aside from some spiders on steroids, I've not encountered any other bug in my place.

Stereotypes. Screw'em.

My impression of the Japan prior to arriving was that here were geisha everywhere. I haven't seen one yet! And that all of the men were dressed in navy blue pinstripe suits, wore glasses, had an attache case, straight black hair and had no sense of humour.

Okay... that might have been a poor example of showing how stupid stereotypes are. There are more than enough men in Japan who fit that description. But sense of humour? These guys are stupid funny - and I mean that they are hilarious!

Anyhow... while Tokyo does indeed get its fair share of earthquakes every day (some of which you might even notice), tsunami and volcanic eruptions that affect the country are exceedingly rare. Why am I mentioninig this? It's because there's a typhoon blowing in Ohtawara right now! It's actually typhoon season!

Really? In Canada we have duck season and construction season - but typhoon season? That's insane! Fortunately, there are only about 5-6 typhoons in the late summer, early fall.

I'm just trying to tell you that okay, for maybe 15 days a year in Ohtawara, it rains - hard. In Toronto, it's the same - but it's snowing. It's the same, but different. Welcome to life as a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan.

I'm up at 6:45AM, and despite being in a good mood these past two days, I awake feeling very tired.
 
It's pouring rain.

Fortunately I have an umbrella, which I take with me as I ride my bicycle to Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) where I work (this week) as an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Unfortunately for me, the umbrella last a whole five minutes before the typhoon's winds shred the fabric covering me.

I am now soaked. My navy blue suit weighs a ton thanks to all of the water it has soaked up, and I'm also riding head-first into the storm.

What's worse, though, is that this is only the beginning of the storm.

(And... just for you, oh reader... here in 2011, I found out that what I was just in - didn't even qualify as a typhoon! In fact... it wasn't even directly over Ohtawara!

Here's some data on Tropical Storm Luke (the actual storm - I found this info in 2011) :
Tropical Storm Luke formed from a disturbance that moved through the Northern Marianas and formed a depression on the 14th of September just to the west of the islands. The depression began to slowly intensify as it moved towards the west-northwest and Tropical Storm Luke was named on the 15th of September. Luke reached peak intensity of 60 mph (97 km/h) prior to recurving to the northeast and weakening due to increased shear. Tropical Storm Luke then paralleled the southeastern Japan coastline, dropping heavy rains. The resulting flooding and landslides killed 8 people and left 10 others missing prior to Luke turning extratropical east of central Honshū Island.

So... despite it not being a typhoon, people died.

Teachers at the school did dig deep and find some clothes for me to wear - it's all sportswear - but it's dry and very warming, both physically and emotionally. They even dug out some slippers for me to wear that actually fit me (almost).

 I actually could ring water from my suit - apparently you shouldn't do that, however, as it tends to make the suits all wrinkly. Some of the female teachers took my suit and hung it up to dry, and watched as a small river fell from it nearly drowning the home economics teacher in the process.

I have six very hot cups of o-cha (Japanese green tea) and then have to pee for four minutes straight. The time was straight... my urine strain was a little wobbly.

Maybe the stars are starting to align up for me? I'm tired and luckily only have two classes to teach at school. I do very little, but that's okay. It doesn't matter because everyone from teachers to students is polite and warm. Perhaps it's because everyone knows that the last tie I was here I was stalked by a university student on a week-long internship program to learn how to teach.

You can read about that HERE, but just know that it was some of the best sex I had ever had! The problem was when she started stalking me, dropping out of school to follow me around, and then dropping by when any guests I had over left so we could screw each other's brains out until the morning, when I would go to work for days and days with out sleep. It was a very tiring  - but wholly satisfying experience.

The head of the English department - Inoue-sensei comes up to me at 4:15PM and asks me to do a recording of an English test for him since I'll be at another school next week.

He' such a nice man! I miss him so much! Besides being a great friend, he also told me so much about life in Japan - a lot of which I have already shared with you, and many more that I will share in the future!

Inoue-sensei gives me a couple of telephone cards for my collection (see HERE for what I picked up), and then asks if I'll be free one Sunday in October to accompany him on a trip to Nasushiobara! I have no idea why, but sure!

It stops raining - or typhooning - or I guess tropical storming as I am about to go home, so at least I'm not going to get soaked again.

At home, Matthew my friend and local legend calls - we ride out for a ramen (noodle) dinner. We then rent a couple of movies and watch one back at my place.

When Catherine Willens calls again at 10PM, I kick Matthew out so I can talk uninhibited until midnight. When we are done exchanging more life stories, she tells me she only actually called to invite me to a party. I can't recall when or where, but it seems she wants me to be her date.

I  guess she doesn't know that while I no longer have a girlfriend in Ashley, am trying to sleep with Karen, and trying date Shoko, I am still a friend-with-benefits with my ex. There's probably a few other women I'm chasing or am sleeping with this week that I haven't mentioned, but since I either can't remember their name or I haven't met them yet, it doesn't matter.    

Before heading to bed, I stay up and do more of my puzzle on the Tower of Babel. The easy part of the puzzle is now finished. Now all I have to do is put together 500 pieces of white fluffy clouds.

Somewhere I am wrinkled,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is sung to you by The Eurythmics: Here Comes The Rain Again: POURING

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