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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lookin' For Love (In All The Wrong Places)

Sakuyama Jr. High students read a Haiku marker by Basho, a famous poet.
It's been a while since I posted one of these true tales of my time as a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan, as opposed to my time as a gaijin in Canada. Because Matthew J. Hall requested it, here's a story which truly captures the reason why I created this particular blog in the first place. 

Here's the precursor, as we flip back 20 years in time: Today is Wednesday, October 16, 1991. I'm a junior high school teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme) now on my second year of living comfortable in Ohtawara-shi (City of Ohtawara), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan.

I'm teaching at Sakuyama Chu Gakko (Sakuyama Junior High School) this week, and today is just another typical day here.... not.

Today we're going on a bicycle /hiking school trip!

First off... the students ride out to the town of Kurobane on their bicycles. It took them an hour.

I got a ride in the car with some teachers, who followed them to make sure no one fell into a rice paddy along the way. Do you know what was cool? Not a single car passed us that morning. It's like we had the road all to ourselves to ensure the kids were going to have a safe ride. I wonder if they actually can do something like that - shutting down a public road - like what they do back home for parades?

The thing is... there is probably no other road in or out of Kurobane.

Earlier that morning, teachers had marked out with cones all of the designated danger zones in an effort to direct traffic for the students.

During the opening ceremonies, I open up my camera to change film (I told you this was 1991)  and discover it was empty. I wonder if I have been taking photos of anything these past few weeks. Luckily I have a fresh roll of film in my pocket - and if I didn't, I could buy one at a local film vending machine later.

Getting out of the car at Kurobane, I hook up with a third-year (grade 9) male leader named Ueki-kun (kun designates the friendly form for boy, rather than the formal san or mister). This kid was great. I only wish he had told me his first name... Anyhow... last year, he was the kid I had first taught all of the bad English words to. And, lo and behold, he quietly recites them to me as we hike. He also takes the time to teach me a whole slew of Japanese naughty words and phrases... the meaning of which we are able to figure out through pantomime and broken English and broken Japanese.

To be honest, I haven't had such a good time with the students since this time last year when I went to Nikko with the Nozaki school.

Ueki-kun and I chat as old friends as we walk around Kurobane finding stone markers denoting various poems written by the famous Haiku poet Basho. How famous was Basho? I first learned about him in Grade 3 back in Toronto.

We walk about for five hours. I'm exhausted - and while I get to ride home in an 2-50 air-conditioned car (two windows down - 50 kilometers an hour), these poor kids have an hour's ride to look forward to... but no one complains.

A whole slew of kids come up to me at various times just to say hello and to chat. In fact, I've talked to more students today than at any other time since arriving in this country 15 months ago. There's no rife like it!

It's like this field trip has brought us all closer together—much like last year's Nozaki Nikko trip did at this same time last year.

Click HERE to see my photos of this beautiful place. Presented in order of the ride.

Okay... here's the fun part. It was a beautiful day. Students all came up to me at the conclusion of the hike to slap me on the back and say how relieved they were that my days as the ame otoko (rain man) appeared to be over. You see... everyone knows that I am the ame otoko, and that it rains whenever I travel (see photographic evidence of my recent trip to SENDAI) as proof of that.

While I am unsure if my days as the rain man are over - because hanging around Ohtawara's area does not usually constitute a trip in my watery logs... but tomorrow.... tomorrow is another day. I'm going to Utsunomiya and Nikko on an AET (assistant English teacher)learning trip.

As the hike part of the day is over, we settle down and have some lunch by the Naka Gawa (Middle River)... nothing overly special, we all had to bring our lunches. I didn't, so I bought a bento box (a boxed lunch) at a nearby shop. Unagi (eel) on a bed of rice! Holy cow that was good! (And 20 years later, it is still the one meal I order when I see it on a menu at a Japanese restaurant!)  

I go home and out to practise kyudo (Japanese archery). Ashley (my ex, and now friend-with-benefits) both miss our last shots into the night and lose our arrows. We playfully accuse each other of hiding the each others arrow, because after 10 minutes of searching we can't find them.

We go to Tsubuhachi's for dinner (in Ohtawara), come back to my place and watch videos until 11PM.

We begin kissing, get hot and heavy, strip down and are about to have sex when she says 'no'. She just wants to kiss me. She rides home at 1AM, and I am tired and frustrated and end a great day less than satisfied.

Somewhere too tired to ride,
Andrew Joseph
I chose the blog title because it's obvious I really was looking for love in all the wrong places - whether it was cupid's lost arrow with Ashley (at Kyudo) or back at my apartment getting shot down - I had love from my students at Sakuyama Chu Gakko who treated me with respect. I was probably too stupid to realize that back in 1991. Sort off. I knew I had the kids, but I was still pining for someone I could never get again.
Today's blog title is sung by Johnny Lee, who made it famous:

1 comment:

  1. Good account - it reminds me of a trip I took with my shogakko. It seems not too much has changed in the last 20 years - girls are still a mystery and the kids still get put through strenous things without complaining - I don`t know how they do it!

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