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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mr. Brightside

Okay... maybe I lied at the end of my blog yesterday. I actually got a good night's sleep. Hardly the sleep of angels, but I do get enough... but I still feel like it's not enough.

It's Wednesday, September 4, 1991 and I'm in my 13th month of living here on the small city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. I'm an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

You know.. regular readers must be bored with me writing out that last paragraph for all of my articles... but you try writing it out every single day! I do it in case someone new comes along - and believe me, despite the few number of followers, there are quite a few people who find us accidentally and follow along themselves. How else to explain why we get around 6,000 hits a month. It's not going viral, but it shows that one can build an audience with charming, intelligent articles. And that you can do it the opposite way to, like I have done.  

I'm at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School), one of the seven schools I team-teach at for four days a week (a fifth day is spent at the OBOE - what I call the Ohtawara Board of Education office). Though I only have two classes today, school is very long... a by-product of feeling tired, I suppose... or perhaps just realizing that every kid is looking forward to this weekend's Sports Festival.

After the second class (strangely enough in the second period), all the kids head outside to practice for the festival. It's 10:30AM and it's already 31 Celsius and humid.

But, rather than practice sports (it is a sports festival!), they practice dancing... they do a traditional Ohtawara dance that is old fashioned and means a lot more to old folks and gaijin (foreigners) than it probably does to these poor kids.

Since there are about 50 more boys than girls, the boys are forced to dance together. One of the teachers (who shall remain nameless) winked at me and called it an okama dance... an English translation would involve a more harsh term for 'homosexual'. Regardless of the lack of political correctness (and he did say it as a friend rather than a s a fellow teacher), I call it the 'laughing dance' as I am laughing my butt off! It's not because of any one looking gay, it's because of the reaction of these boys.

Let's take a look at life in 1991 in Japan. Homosexuality in Japan is completely frowned upon. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was not something that Japanese people got—it was a sicko perversion brought to Japan by gaijin. This was what numerous people told me when I asked them about homosexuality et al.

Back in the early 1980's, I worked as a summer student with the Ontario Ministry of Housing working the frontline as people looked for government-assisted housing. Along with the so-called poor and needy, we also had battered women, as well as those who were sick... many with AIDS. I've not been afraid to help anyone who needs help, and I know back in 1987 or whenever it was, a person with AIDS was looked upon like a leper (but 10 times worse). These poor men (and in all instances at that time, the people who had AIDS that I met were men) always seemed surprised that I didn't seem afraid to shake their hand or that I as a then 22-year-old could treat them with the respect than any human being deserves.

Why am I explaining all this... well, I don't want you to think I'm an insensitive clod. I'm not a hypocrite. I treat everyone the same, and that is how I want to be treated myself.

These boys were afraid to touch each other's hands. It was funny, because the teachers knew this and didn't care. They were going to step up and toe the line and dance with another male, because that's what they had to do.

They were slapping each other like Japanese Stooges, calling each other knuckleheads and other nonsensical names. They were acting like kids... and I have to admit that sometimes that is great to see. Japanese schools can be so strict and regimented that it isn't really a fun place to be (at least in my own opinion - maybe they feel differently). After several minutes of refusing to touch each other's hands, one of the older kids—and obvious star athlete in baseball—tells them all to stop screwing around and to let's just do this! This kid will be a leader in enterprise someday!

So... guess what music they are dancing to? "Turkey in the Straw"; "Anchor's Away "(which would have been even more funny if they were wearing the dress uniforms... you  know...  the one's based on the naval sailor suits!).

Those songs were why I was busting a gut laughing! That wasn't for my benefit was it?! I hope not! But why those old grey mare songs? This is for Sports Day... surely there must be something better than Turkey In The Straw!

Lunch is another diet. It's not that I'm not hungry - I am... it's just that I am not afforded enough time to eat. I eat my lunch with the 3-3 class (class three of Year 3), a group of mostly 14- and 15-year-olds.

They all seem to speak excellent English. Any worries I had for the future of Japan were quickly dispelled by this class. The sports leader was also in this particular class.

Two of the boys (whom are not afraid to say that they think of me as a friend) sit beside me and talk non-stop throughout lunch. That's cool. That's what I am in Japan for. English and internationalization.
The son of one of the OBOE ladies asks me how tall I am and then how he can get to be so tall. Geez. Tough question considering genetics plays a huge role in this. I tell him to drink lots of milk and to exercise - things that can encourage growth. He says he does weights, and since I have done some (not a lot) I would start doing weights a lot between 1994 - 1999 back in Canada), I offer him advice and add that he should develop his core muscles (stomach et al) and his shoulders. As well, one can't walk around all muscle bound with the upper body, or you'll look like a chicken, with rooster legs. It's a total package, alternating between upper body and lower body, switching off on the days he exercises.

I go outside again and bake in the sun while I chat with Miss Funami ( a cutie teacher) and then either fall asleep or pass out from the heat that must be up around 38 Celsius. The nap kills my enthusiasm for the rest of the day. Heat stroke or something like that.

I go home, wolf my dinner and get ready for kyudo (Japanese archery). Ashley wants to come this week. I am unsure why she has chosen to come this week - whether it was for the actual sport or for my company, or is it just to learn something Japanese. Ashley, my ex-girlfriend, is a boys high school AET here in Ohtawara. All of her students know I am or was dating her, though Ashley likes to tell people she and I were just friends. Whether they believe her or me—well, I can't answer that. I'm pretty sure they believe the guy who talks to them about sex and who has never shied away from answering any question they have ever asked of me. Sorry Ashley.

At kyudo, because I am entering a contest this weekend, I am asked to put on some of the official archery clothing. It's some very fanciful pants and top, and if I didn't feel Japanese, I felt like one now... just one who was melting in the heat.

My actually archery is okay form-wise, but I am not hitting any targets, as I guess I am not pulling my right arm (and bowstring) back enough. I am shooting too low.

Because Ashley hasn't been to archery in a couple of months, I end up showing her what to do. Guess who hits the target? I effing hate her sometimes. With that hit, Kanemaru-san (one of my bosses at the OBOE and our kyudo teacher) asks Ashley to join the tournament this weekend.

(2011 editorial aside. I was 26-years-old at the time of this archery event, and still pretty childish. 2011 editorial aside over.)

This was my tournament! I'm not please. This was supposed to be my day. That ... it rhymes with witch.

We are supposed to practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the event on Sunday.

I am still fuming. I don't hide my emotions well... so I'm sure everyone knows I'm angry about something.

Ashley and I ride back to my place and watch McGyver on a tape I have, before I ride part-way home with her, leaving her to drop off a video and to rent another. Cathy, MariAnn and Kristine call me as I lie around naked watching my video. Yeah. There's a visual for all of you.

I crash at 11:30PM mentally exhausted.

Somewhere childish,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is by: The Killers: JEALOUSY
PS: Wow... why was I such a dink? Ashley didn't do anything wrong. Maybe I was trying to push her away? Maybe I was angry that she didn't immediately fall in love with me again after being away for three weeks? Maybe I don't like being shown up by anyone in sports? Maybe I had heat stroke? Maybe I'm as childish as those dancing kids? Maybe. Let's face it... if I wasn't complex, these adventures would be pretty boring. See... I told you I was honest. Writing these blogs about this particular time of my life - it's difficult to write and bare myself. It's hard to fathom how I refused to let myself stay in a good mood - always looking for something to pull me down. I think it's still going on in 2011. Crap. I should do something about it.
PPS: Today's image at the top is again drawn in ink by Matsu-sensei of Nozaki. It's me gabbing on the phone (he knows I do that a lot), plus... I'm shaving! I guess my facial hair grows pretty fast! Dammit! Has everyone noticed?! Anyhow... his hanko (ink stamp signature is below the drawing.. mine is in the top right corner, and simply says An-Doh-Ryu.... not my last name... just my first.  
PPPS: Another blog entry eight hours after the publication of this one. Hold your breath!

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