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Friday, June 10, 2016

Lost Letter From Japan - 2

Here’s a second letter found in my basement the other day… one that I had sent back home to my mom in Toronto, as I pondered the existence of life in Japan on the soon-to-expiring third year of my three one-year contracts then allowed by the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Unlike the previous letter I highlighted yesterday (HERE), this one was handwritten.

Of interest to no one, I noticed that the way I wrote my “W” in Andrew is different from how I write it now. Previously, the line up that forms the right wall of the “w” was angles to the left and then straight out to the right. Nowadays, I sworl that line in a circular arc to the left. Joseph has also become a lot less legible…. but ain’t that the truth.

This letter is from two months earlier than the one in yesterday’s blog… and again kind of shows my state of mind… and how much of a rut I had fallen into. February… February in Japan usually did that to me.

But was it really a rut if I’m basically enjoying myself? 

From Monday, February 15, 1993… the day after western Valentine’s day…  in Japan, on Valentine’s Day… the women give valentines out to the person they like. The men… they don’t have to do anything except say thanks and pick and choose which woman they should follow up with.

One month later on March 14, it’s White Day… and that’s when the Japanese men give out valentines to the person THEY like.

The idea was to make things easier for the man… Japan (snicker).

The letter:

February 15, 1993
Once more into the abyss. How’s it going? It’s lunch time. I’m frozen. Lunch was entirely unappetizing and I know one of the things I ate is waiting until I get home to lose itself in my building’s sewer system.
I can’t believe I’m wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
It looked sunny out this morning. Oh well, at least I got it partially correct. I’m wearing long johns! 
My hands are so cold, I can barely hold my pen. That’s why my hand-writing is pitiful. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Actually, I just finished writing a story on the computer… but I’m handwriting this letter because I don’t want to appear as though i am hogging the school computer. Yup. Just one. Monochrome… but at least I can turn off the Japanese keyboard for the QWERTY English version. Did I remember to turn it back to Japanese. Better go check…
 … nope. I had forgotten. Good thing you reminded me.
At the school today, the kids who are in Grade 8… those who will be 14 this year - are having a celebration.
In the olden days, it was a “Coming Of Age” day.
Now, it’s just a perfunctory event with little to no fanfare. At least in the schools.
Two years ago, I gave a speech. This year, nada. Oh how the high and mighty have fallen.
Speaking of fallen XXXX XXXX is depressed. He wants help, but is afraid to do anything about it. He’s there and I’m here… I don’t know how I can help.
I’ve just given Ravi’s ‘letter’ to Mr. Tomura. He’s an English teacher here at Wakakusa Junior High School. He will translate it perfectly into Japanese.
Sometimes he uses archaic English, but I think that’s because he studied English Literature at university. He’s a good joe.
I’m trying to teach him some slang, but it’s difficult because of his religion… born again Christian. They’re everywhere. Ha. I just mean that I don’t want to teach him a risqué word or phrase that might offend his religious sensibilities.
Anyhow, Tomura-sensei is busy (real busy) until the end of February - he’s on the computer now… good thing I changed the keyboard! - so I don’t think I’ll be able to send the translation to you until then.  
Y’know… I shaved this morning, because I’ve got cuts to prove it, but it seems like I didn’t remove any hair.
I just got through explaining some astronomy to a girl (student)… in my broken Japanese, and she talking in her stilted, but understandable English. We are both quite impressed with ourselves.
There’s the fact that I knew enough about astronomy to explain the concept, and she enough English to grasp my meaning.
I like this school (Wakakusa Chu Gakko) a lot. I’ve been with these well-behaved people since they dragged me to Japan.
Since they are graduating junior high school soon, it’s hard to believe that I won’t see them again.
Well, I probably will, but they’ll ignore me because they are afraid to talk to an AET (assistant English teacher) who’s not their own AET.
I’m going to end the letter now for today.
I’m going home.
Going to the bank.
Getting my film developed.
Flirt with the girls there.
Going shopping.
Re-heat some killer chili I made on the weekend.
Play the piano.
Play the clarinet.
Read a book.
It’s amazing how much time I have when I don’t watch TV. I suppose I could even do the laundry.
I’ll talk to you tomorrow and let you know how I did.
Okay, it’s tomorrow.
Re-cap. As for the “Coming Of Age” thing… I wasn’t even asked if I wanted to go and watch the ceremony.
I just sat there in the teacher’s office with a few teachers and some third-year girls who wanted to talk. Oh well.. that’s my job, isn’t it?
I got home last night, hit the bank (machine), bought a video game (Krusty’s Fun House - The Simpson’s - for the Nintendo SNES system), went and collected my film (boy, did they all suck), flirted with the two female clerks at the film department of Iseya who I’ve met a couple of times at my local bar, the 4C.
I then did some grocery shopping, and then went and settled my bar tab of ¥15,000 (It’s US$140 now, but $150 back in 1993) for the month. Hmmm, a few too many.
Came home, reheated the chili, talked on the phone with a female AET friend(?)
Figured out how to play the video game (the instructions are in Japanese, as are the in-game commentary.
I read a book until 11PM. Then I put on my headphones and practiced the synthesizer for a half-an-hour before I figured I should clean my contact lenses and go to bed.
Naturally, I read in bed until 1AM. No laundry. Didn’t really need to do it, as I do it every couple of days anyhow.
That was more or less a typical day for me. Obviously I do go out to the 4C - even during the week… but that’s so I don’t shut myself off from human contact. Often I don’t even have to buy a drink, as someone will offer to buy me one - even the women.
I accept, because I think it would be rude not to. I usually offer to buy the next round, but more often than not there is no next round as the women have a curfew put on them by their fathers (not parents… father)… so often after a drink they want to go out for a walk with me. I think that I still have some cache as an icon in this city.
Anyhow, usually in the early evening, I’ll watch a movie video that I rent from a book/video store. But I had so many other things to do last night that I neglected to get a video. No biggie… obviously I have other things to do.
Still… a nice and relaxing evening, eh? If I had a computer, I suppose I would write my stories - but I have a lot of free time at school, so I write then… as I am writing now.
Only three classes today, and one of those was cancelled.
This is not a job.
I’m not sure what I’m learning about work, but I do know I like what I’m doing.
Or not doing.
My Superman Diary (story) has recreated itself into the Superboy Diary. Nertz. I feel like I have no control when I write. Slave to the Twilight Zone. Ha. I wouldn’t miss that sign post up ahead for the world.
Love
Andrew
PS: Obviously Mr. Tomura did the translation for Ravi.          

-30-
My backwords: 
Ravi Alfred Joseph is my cousin, who lives in India, is a year younger than myself and was creating a business proposal for the Japanese. I think I’ve only met Ravi maybe 3 or 4 times. That sucks. 

You can tell - especially at the end of the letter, that 2-1/2 years in, I am still enjoying life in Japan.

Yeah, I complained about not being invited to see the spectacle at the school… but who cares… it wasn’t MY day. Besides… I saw it once previously. I think I begin to complain about stuff, but as I write, my true feelings come out.

I also ‘complained’ about how, when I write stories, I have no control over what I put to paper… as though the words and thoughts emanating from my brain have a life of their own.

Obviously I like that fact… it’s how I write today, and how I can write a lot and often. I have no idea where the ideas come from… hence my Twilight Zone reference. If you’ve never seen that television program - watch the stuff from the original 1960s series. The later ones are okay, but the early one are magic.

The worst part about this letter was the fact that I hand-wrote it. My penmanship dictates I should have been a doctor. Bad enough that I have horrible handwriting, I wrote the letter without anything more than whatever spewed out of the recesses of my mind. To me, to hesitate is death, when writing. It’s how one gets all the real thoughts and emotion out. It doesn’t always make for scintillating reading, but at least you know it’s honest. 

I assume I was in a blah/meh mood. No valentine for me… didn’t bother going out to the bar the previous night to try and find a willing partner in sex crime… But it’s okay… in two months time I would be dumping a well-built 19-year-old sex bomb for the mid-20’s, elegant, demure, intelligent and sexy woman I wanted to place upon a pedestal as I begged for her hand in marriage. It was Japan. Things always worked out for me in Japan… except when they didn’t.

But this blog is called “It’s A Wonderful Rife” for a reason.

Play the piano? I brought an electronic keyboard with me, and bought another one down in Akihabara, Tokyo. Both sit in my basement as I haven’t played the keyboards or any music since I left Japan in 1993.

I never went out for a walk with the women I met at the bar. Well… we might walk back to my place knowing we had to be efficient with our time if we were going to have some adult fun. Obviously I couldn’t tell my mom that I was a whore… though I suppose she knew considering she was the one who would send me boxes of western-sized condoms every few months. That’s right… no little Andrew-kun's running around Japan, and I didn’t pick up anything exotic either.     

Somewhere knowing what one can let get cold and what should be kept warm,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I really did enjoy Japanese food while there - even looking forward to those school lunches I paid for on a monthly basis. I even liked natto (rotting, fermented soy beans). But sometimes there was an ingredient or two in my meal that was either too rich for me or I simply didn’t care for. As you can tell, however… I ate everything given to me. It’s part of setting an example for the students. I know I’m not a real teacher, but I don’t want anyone to think that I get special privileges because I’m a foreign teacher. The teachers, and the students are required to eat all foods on their plate. There is no throwing of food away.
As such, many of the girls would supply their extra foods to the boys, who would wolf it down with a slurp and a burp. 
Foods that were left over in the kitchen would be taken home by the kitchen staff or presented to teachers who asked for it.
I once said I liked natto as I went down to the kitchen accompanying the students who were carting away the dishes and bowls et al.
No one could believe it, because no gaijin (foreigner) ever likes natto (my point in ensuring I liked it), plus the fact that many Japanese would rather starve than eat the stuff. West of Tokyo, natto is not liked as much as it is in the north east area past Tokyo.
I dislike stereotypes, so I did my best to dispel the impression some Japanese had of us foreigners. Trying to sleep with half the female Japanese population? I perpetuated that myth with a herculean effort.

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