Thursday, September 20, 2007

possible progress

Randomata: 1. Just briefly, to flesh out the weak history in my previous explanation: written language in Japan first appears around 700c.e., entirely Chinese in form. Kana is a "native orthography for the phonetic representation of Japanese" developed in the 9th and 10th centuries, in a concerted effort to distance Japanese from mainland languages. So, I think it was fair to say that hiragana is an indigenous rehashing of Chinese kanji mixed with equal parts Japanese ingenuity and universal human laziness.

2. Just briefly, to return to my comment on music here: I forgot to mention that when they are finally playing a good song on the radio, they invariably stop the song about 68% of the way through. I'm not sure why they do this. I swear they let the crappy songs play all the way to the end. For example, shortly after I wrote that post on annoying music practices, I felt bad because U2's 'One' came on the radio - a song of which I am quite fond - only to have my annoyance reconfirmed when the song stopped before the last verse, not to mention the glorious climactic bridge.
Frustratingly, for someone trying to become slightly more immersed, there is a lot of English on the radio; sometimes it is hard to find any Japanese songs or talk at all.

Last Sunday, I went to the Sapporo Gay Pride Parade. You might be surprised to hear that, and rightly so. To put it mildly, Japan is not renowned for its tolerance of difference. Hokkaido prefecture (technically it is a "do" or 'circuit' and not a 'ken' or prefecture; a semantic split which I figure to be similar to the difference between Province and Territory in Canada (another difference about which I know next to nothing (which makes this another parenthetical explanatory addition that doesn't really help explain anything at all))) is one of the most accepting of homosexuality. The parade runs right through downtown (however it is only alloted one lane, so it has to share the road, as well as stop at red lights!!) and I believe it is the largest and longest running in Japan. The music and energy and awesome faces in the crowd all difficult to convey in words. So, I don't have much to say, other than that it was awesome! I proudly joined the march (along with a bunch of ALT's) to support friends with rainbows in their hearts, (or on their shirts, backs, faces, hair, or waving flag). There is only one or two buttocks in my photos of the event, so please don't be afraid.

Prior to that, I went to a Sapporo Consadoles Soccer game, once again at the impressive Sapporo Dome (where I saw a Fighter's Baseball game the week before). The field they play on is absolutely perfect: the dimensions are perfect, the lines are perfect, and it's level is perfect. Incredibly, the whole field sits atop a gigantic, hydraulically driven mobile foundation that allows the entire field to be moved out of the way for the baseball games.
The fans were, if possible, even more intense than for the baseball game. A sea of red jerseys, faces, and flags filled the far side of the stadium's stands. To my right, an entire section devoted to the opposing team's fans threatened to overfill with the thickness of yellow from their paraphernalia. These two sections spent the entire game in coordinated stomping, clapping, and singing in an effort to drown out the opposing song. The skill level of the soccer made it quite enjoyable, but the fans made it awesome. After the game, both teams line up and bow to thank the fans. The pictures don't capture the stadium very well, and there is simply no way to capture the feeling of being there.

In other news, the lummox has taken some baby steps.

Several times have I looked the right way when crossing the street.
Even better, I successfully asked where the rice was in the grocery store the other day, and I didn't even have to repeat the question!
At work I've actually said a good ten or so words that a real, live Japanese person understood, though I've only had one or two sentences meet with much success. Previously, I would look up a word, repeat in my head, immediately walk over and say it to another sensei, and they STILL didn't understand me.
Whatever I am doing, it is somehow noticeable, because when delivery people and outsiders walk into the teacher's office, they have started asking me questions, like where somebody might be. Previously, they would quickly blink away the surprised look on their face and seek someone more approachable. I can't understand half the question, and I don't know nearly half the names of all the teachers. But it doesn't matter. Somebody asked me a question: Somebody found it conceivable that I might know something, anything at all. That is pretty thrilling.

When anybody walks into the office, they quietly announce "shitsureishimasu:" basically 'sorry i'm BEING rude'. When parents and professionals walk into the office, the elsewhere mostly unnoticeable social hierarchy becomes more evident. Visitors often bow repeatedly, say up to 4 times!, as they say other things along the lines of "sorry," "sorry to bother you," etc. The principal and the vice principal are extremely friendly and helpful to anybody that comes in; nonetheless the visitor still seems abashed and apologetic, or at least extremely grateful for the grace bestowed upon them, with more bows and formal "farewell"s and "pardon-me"s after they finish conversing. As they bow their way out the door, they announce "shitsureishimashita:' 'sorry that i WAS rude'.

Speaking of visitors coming into the school, a coworker came up to me in the office to show me an 8 foot long metal pole with a foot wide biforkal prong at one end. He asked me what I thought it was. It looked like some sort of strange enormous cattle prong. He proceeded to use the pole to force another coworker trapped inside the fork up against a wall. Then he said "For strangers." So, I thought we was joking, and I couldn't figure out what the pole was really for.

Turns out it really is a 10foot-long pole used to pin strangers to the wall. The key word he left out was "For DUBIOUS strangers," which another sensei found on the internet. After I sounded out the word, the whole office giggled as they repeated 'DUBIOUS' numerous times. It is kinda a funny word, I guess. Anyways, the pole is called a sasumoda or something, and it is for pinning down strangers who come into school brandishing a knife. I am not joking about any of this, by the way, and I now know where the Dubious Stranger Prong (D.S.P) is stored, in case of an emergency.
Last week every single staff member in the entire school (myself excluded) learned how to use a portable defibrillator.
I wonder what next week's lesson will be.

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