Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Shiojiri, the city of the salty arse!

As usual, it's been a long time since I posted on here due to being quite a busy ALT (teaching English and French), having to go to 2 schools regularly, not having internet in my apartment and having to only use the internet at work for "English-language teaching purposes". But I'm writing this at work now, so we'll see what happens...

Well, it's been just over a month since I arrived bleary-eyed and smelly at Tokyo's Narita airport. And a lot has happened since then! We've had 2 typhoons (the second one is due to hit us tomorrow morning which should make my bike ride to the station interesting...), festivals, free Japanese lessons every Sunday, and I've got myself my first car! how exciting. It's a 7 year old blue Toyota Starlet, with CD, air-con, electric windows and a snowboard rack as Karina, the girl who sold it to me, was a fan of the slopes! I'm reluctant to take it off as apparently it's a b****rd to put back on, but I can't see myself buying a snowboard anytime soon, but who knows? The car cost me just over 200,000 yen (that sounds so expensive doesn't it?), but it's only £1050, and that includes a 2 year Japanese MOT equivalent called shakken, which can be quite expensive. I'll get some pics of the car, apartment, schools and general ones of Shiojiri soon - maybe Sunday after the International Party in Matsumoto on Saturday. All you can eat, all you can drink with promises of striptease twister... should be a laugh! Then we're going to a club called Sonic for their Britpop/Indie night, so that should keep the homesickness at bay. Apparently the DJ for this event has lived in Liverpool for 7 years, so I'm looking forward to hearing his thick scouse mixed with Japanese!

I was told at the pre-departure orientation before I left the UK that Shiojiri means "salty bottom". I just thought the Japanese teacher was having a laugh, but it is in fact true! I live in the salty arse city! Now there's something not everyone can say. It`s only called a city because that`s the best translation, but to be honest it's not really a city - only about 60,000 people live there, so it's still big enough for there to be enough going on. I live right over the road from a massive pachinko parlour, a 24 hour supermarket, a huge elctronics store, a furniture store which sells food as well, a video rental store, a petrol station and a coin laundry, so I'm quite well placed. It's not very convenient to get to school (about 15 minutes by bike on an incline, so I always arrive sweating at 8.15!), but it's ok. The city is also full of Brazilians, so occasionally I can read some official documents which have a Portuguese translation rather than trying to understand the kanji and Japanese script!

In school, the kids have been keeping me amused all day, not least with some of their questions, and the answers to their questions. As part of my self-introduction, I get the kids to ask me some questions about myself. So far I've had: "What is your blood type?", "How tall are you?","Do you have a steady girlfriend?", "Do you like Victoria Beckham?" and "What is the church like in the UK?". All slightly random, but typical Japanese questions apparently!
I'm also questioning the geography teaching in this country. I asked the students if they could name the four countries of the UK. I wasn't really expecting them to get any further than England, but when they started coming out with answers like Sweden and Iceland I did start to wonder what was going on in this country. Also, the most famous British person that they know seems to be James Bond, 007!

All in all though I love it here - the music that is piped over the speakers on one of the streets in Shimosuwa is really funny, and instead of having a beeping sound at pelican crossings, they play a nice synthesised tune instead! Another favourite of mine is when you arrive at Matsumoto train station and the speakers shout "Matsumotooooooo...!" . It always makes me laugh.

Right that's probably enough for now - I have to go and set up a classroom so I can project some photos from my laptop - I'm doing 3 classes today in Shimosuwa, and they're all 50 minute self-introductions! Great!

Jamata!

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