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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bread And Butter

No surprise, but I don't have a very restful night's sleep, and am exhausted when I get up.

It's Tuesday, December 3, 1991. I'm a junior high school assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

While it doesn't seems as though I do much of anything here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan except for a whine about how much sex I am getting or not getting and how I wish I could find true love until marriage comes along - I do do other things here. Today's adventure might show some of that. Thanks goodness. That lovecraft stuff is a horror story.

Just as I finish getting dressed, my mom and dad call at 7:30AM. They have a question.

My dad asks me if I have a child...

If I was drinking something I would have done a spit take!

It seems as though they have received a package from me in the mail... but it's the wrong package.

On Friday last, I filled out some shipping forms at one of the nearby post offices. It seems as though they placed those forms onto a package that was supposed to be going to Brazil, by mistake. You know... it was written in an alphabet just like English... everyone knows I'm from Canada, so an easy mistake to make.

It was filled with clothes for a five-year-old, and a love letter of how much she missed the child. Probably a relative or friend of someone who has moved from Japan, or at least came to visit here... someone named Lemmon Yamada.

Suddenly I wonder just what the heck happened to my actual package?! I had a 150-year-old picture scroll in there! Aargggh! I've been shipping the antiquities out of Japan for months now, and no one has guessed! The jig could be up! My life as an international art smuggler could be over!

If only my life was that simple.

I get a ride to Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) today with Mr. Oyamada.I tell him that as of today, I am on a diet. Really, I say, as he raises an eyebrow quizzically.

Okay, okay. I'm already tired of my diet. Ashita (tomorrow), I joke to him.... but really... I am fat. I think my weight goes up when I'm depressed. Not clinically, of course. I'll leave that to others. I've just been sad lately. I think I need a cheer up day.

At school, I explain to English teacher Hiyama-sensei all about my mail foibles, who then brings in fellow English teacher  Mrs. Nagashima to discuss. They call the post office and quickly find out that my real package will get to the proper destination within a few days. My parents have already said they would ensure the box they received would make its way down to Brazil.

During my breaks, I finish reading my Douglas Adams Book - Last Chance To See, and then study a few Kanji letters.

My classes all went well. In each class I offer up 10 minutes of me teaching them more natural English, rather than the stiff and inflexible stuff in the textbook.

Where the hell is my wallet?

Lunch was a lot of fun.

I'm sitting with the 2-1 (class 1 of grade 8) class eating lunch with them, when I see a kid stuffing his face with food until his cheeks are puffed out like a chipmunk.

Because darn near everyone is interested in seeing how the gaijin (foreigner) is at using chopsticks (better than you - I won a contest here once: SEE), students see me suddenly stop eating and follow my gaze to venture just what or whom has captured my fancy.

Seeing me stare at their fellow student, many of them shout out that Andrew-sensei is staring at him (not WHY I am staring at him). The sudden shock causes the poor hungry lad to choke, and sweat, and laugh with the food still in his mouth!

Somehow, he manages to get it all down. I ask him "Daijobu (Okay?)". 

He nods once quickly and then immediately begins stuffing more food into his mouth even more quickly, as if to make up for lost time. When his cheeks are full and he can barely chew, I point it out to the class again.

I'm surprised he could hear us say anything as I'm sure there was food coming out of his ears - but he began to laugh. And laugh hard.

He laughed so hard that he began to spew chunks of rice and vegetables everywhere!

Quail's Eggs
That was apparently funny enough for one other student (a boy of course) to snort milk out of his nose!

That was gross, but highly fascinating as I had never seen that before!

The snorted milk caused a girl in a laughing fit to spit out a quail's egg, which narrowly missed my bowl of food, but did bounce off my sweater!

Suddenly there was deafening silence!

Every student and teacher sucked in all of the air in the room, bit their collective lower lip and stared at me in dreaded anticipation.


What would gaijin do?

Hey! This is me! I roared in laughter! I slapped the left shoulder of the poor boy beside me and caused him to spit out his milk! And we were off again!

Milk, vegetables, rice, quails eggs a-flying!

At some point we went from spontaneity to sheer fun and we had a food fight. Nothing nasty. No dumping or pouring of stuff. Just tossing of food at each other.

Food was flying! People were backed up against the walls! And, I want you to know that despite having been the cause of all of this, I did not throw any food! I am an adult, after all. Okay... maybe just one quail egg at the homeroom teacher.

I'm howling in laughter in the midst of all of this lunacy. It's the best damn day I've had in Japan! Lunch with the 2-1 class! I wonder if the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office will let me stay another year now?

I try to stick around after lunch to help the students clean up, but the homeroom teacher was having none of it! It's the student's job to clean up after themselves, regardless of who causes the mess. It hardly seems fair to me, and back at the teacher's office I beg Nagashima-sensei to let me help 2-1 clean up. She smiles and say that is very nice of me: "The students know you want to help them, which is why they all really like you so much." (She really does speak in stiff, sweet English)


"Yes... the whole school thinks that."

I told you I LOVE this school!

After my second and last class of the day (5th and last period), I get a phone call in the teacher's office.

How the hell do people do that? How do they know enough Japanese to even get my work phone number and then get the school number to call me? Who needs to talk to me that badly?

It's Nicholas Strachan! I love this rogue! He actually lived about 3 kilometers north of me in Etobicoke, Toronto, though we had never met before - because it's a friggin' huge city!

He's back in Japan for a visit, and wants to hang out. He suggests tonight... but because I am guessing Ashley will come over, I suggest tomorrow night, and tell him I will leave my apartment unlocked in case he wants to crash during the day.

Nicholas and his discussions always energize me. He's the first person to offer a critique of my writing while offering ways to get better.

At home by 4PM, Ashley doesn't visit.

There is a package from home, however - so this is turning into a great day! There's a video tape full of television shows, microwavable popcorn, my Hitchhiker 's Guide To The Galaxy books (by Douglas Adams), a new pair of shoes and some letters from family and friends.

I sit and watch the video tape until 6:30PM and then call Ashley. She has a sty. I assume it's not from her pig-pen of an apartment that she just mucked out. She doesn't feel like company (me going over), which is fine. I just want to get laid, and I don't want to boink anyone with a wonky eye.

I drink a few beers, suck down a couple of sake glasses and head out into the freezing cold wind of Ohtawara to do some grocery shopping at Mimosuya.

My fridge is maybe 2-feet tall... and therefore I should only buy what I need.

But, while I love the people, I hate to go shopping.

It's why I purchase enough food for the upcoming month - if I am lucky.

I watch the videotape until 1AM, taking some time out in-between to decode an audio tape from Rika Funami, the music teacher at Nozaki. It's from a male friend in Albany, the capital of New York State. This guy is a complete effin' hick!

I mean, I'm mixed up, but I try not to show that outwardly.... but this guy... whooo... I hope Rika doesn't think all foreigners are this mixed up.

I call my dad at home and tell him about the package situation and thank my mom for sending the new package - and the much needed shoes!

When I had called Matthew earlier today, he had sounded really tired. Ashley, too. Even Nick did - but then he has a certain British coolness about him (like myself, he was born in England - though he was certainly there long enough to keep a bit of the accent. A posh one, at that).

Still... despite not being able to sleep... I don't feel tired right now. I just don't want the day to be over.

Somewhere finding a piece of rice in my hair at 1AM,
Andrew Joseph
The image at the very top is from Alice in Wonderland's Through The Looking Glass - it's a Bread & Butter Fly. 
Today's blog title is by The Newbeats. Cool. I had always though the lead singer was Black... and judging by the reaction of the women in the audience, so did they. Great song!:


  1. I can't believe for a second that you are old enough to know that Newbeats song! I also can't believe for a second that some girl stayed at some guys house over the weekend and they didn't have sex.

  2. The song came out a year after I was born. But, I certainly have an appreciation for the 50s and 60s stuff. I prefer psychedelic rock for its experimental rawness, but I know my music!
    Yeah... the weekend thing - well... I have my doubts about that, of course.