Sunday, December 2, 2007

slight hodepodge of thoughts

Randomatta 1: Tobacco oozes from my pores, and I don't even smoke! Problem is, smoking is allowed in all restaurants and bars, so even if you just go grab a quick cup of coffee, you get a nicotine fix to go with the shot of caffeine. I've been spoiled by Vancouver's fresh air/anti-freedom initiatives over the last few years that have relegated smoking to fewer and fewer public places, so that eventually it seems the only place left will be your john at home. I don't mind smoke or smokers all that much, in fact I'm sure I knew a nice smoker once, and I do feel a little bit bad for them in that the government of British Columbia is telling them how to live their life. On the other hand, I don't enjoy the desire to burn my clothes and scrape off a layer of skin every time I go out somewhere. Two places that stand out in my mind as particularly displeasing are: the changing room of a sento (public bath) and small, closed in karaoke rooms. After feeling relaxed and clean from the bath, some people are apparently eager to reapply the familiar coating stench. When enjoying a night of singing, apparently some people are eager to burn their lungs and vocal chords to crap. I don't mean to sound bitter - I swear I have nothing against smokers - it's just that I stink and my clothes stink and now my house even stinks a bit. It's almost enough to make me take up smoking, just so I don't notice the smell any more.
Randomata 2: Did I mention the importance of 'rock-paper-scissors' here? It's called jan-ken (spelling?), and school kids and young adults use it to solve nearly any dispute or make any group decision, or just for fun. It's quite a sight to see most of a classroom stand in a circle and play in one big group game, everybody showing at the same time, losers ducking out faster than I can keep track of, people reloading before I've even seen their hand, as small pairs of people do mini-battles to figure out rankings and what not. They play with lightning speed, and all decisions are final.
I don't think I talked about dinner at _____-sensei's house? He had a beautiful house and a beautiful family to fill it, two kids and a wife. I played with the kids for three or four hours, sort of trading my energy and English for the incredible dinner his wife made. I don't know if she always cooks that well, but if so, then I understand how Japanese marriages last despite workaholics' hardly being at home. The strange thing about the night was being treated as the guest of honor, expected to enter first, gift first, sit in the lounge first, sit at the head of the table, asked again and again if the food was good enough, thanked for my playing with the kids as if it was a gift I was giving. I was very honoured to be invited at all, but I wish I could have switched spots with one of the other teachers who came - I didn't deserve it at all! (P.S. I hope it's ok to have the picture up... as long as no names are attached... By the way, allllll Japanese kids are incredibly adorable.)
Don't think I talked about a little trip down to Kutchan near Niseko (bout 2hr train southwest of Sapporo) to visit friend Ali and see her nice little town.
Beside the fun party she threw, generally good company, and finding ten dollar skies, a definite highlight was getting a peak at Mt Yotei, Fuji of the North, which dominates the skyline.

I went to another Consadole's soccer game with a few friends, through means of tickets kindly given to me by my Vice Principal! It was an important game with only two left in the season. You'll notice the sea of red in the background. Most people have paraphenalia and jersey's with the number 12 on the back - the official Fan number, which emphasizes that the team depends on its supporters to strive together toward victory.
Here, the fans hold cards to mimic the stripes of a jersey, further enhancing the sense that everybody is part of the team. It was a game with perhaps too much interference by the referee, including two penalty shot goals. Sapporo had the lead until the last minute, when the opponents equalized. Luckily, the next game, the last of the season, Sapporo won and so next year will move up a division to the J1 league, the top soccer league in the country.

What else have I not noted in terms of diary keeping?

Held another fantasy writer's group at my apartment today. I can't write particularly well, but I've always been fascinated with it, so it is good to have some external motivation to work on it a little bit here and there. I sometimes wonder why I am in a writer's group here when I wasn't in one at home, and neither does it help me to learn about this new place I'm in (insofar as the writer's group is composed of gai-jin writing stories that have nothing to do with Japan).
Growing in my mind is the realisation that simply being here doesn't offer a new 'Me' to live with. I've got a lot of the same interests as back home (and flaws), and a lot of the personal growth that happens here won't be of a particularly "Japanese" character, it will just be growth, period. So, it is still personally rewarding to practice writing, even if it's not in Japanese or about Japan - though it would be nice to be able to write SOMEthing in Japanese...
Likewise, it was very fun to play some Futsal (indoor soccer) last week, even though there's nothing specifically 'Japanese' about Futsal or the way I played it. But, after playing soccer the least I ever have in the last half year of my life, it was awweeeeesssooommmeeeee!!!! I don't seem too sluggish on the ball yet, so that's a relief!

I am seeking more specifically 'Japanese' knowledge and experiences, meaning high/traditional cultural experiences like art or theatre. For example, I just bought a couple books on Japanese fairy tales and stories, because many of the myths that raised this nation have a different history from the myths that I know.
Yet, the truth is every day life here is modernized and globalized, at a glance sharing much with life back home. So, in that, the differences may be more specific, like the way people greet each other, or how much they play jan-ken. And, partly, I think the similarities in life - like working a 9-5 - cover up the fact that the way people live that life here, and what components of it mean to them, is different in many ways. Learning the similarities and differences in how people here think about life will take a long time.

1 comment:

Eagle Eye said...

Hi Alexander

It's still strange to think about you living and working in Sapporo, after having had you living at home with us all of your life. I think the real reason we came to see you in your new home was to make sure that WE could handle it, after all.

I do read your blog with interest, even if I don't often respond to it. I found this one quite interesting as I myself have often tried to write fiction. Other than a really bad start to a novel, I've only ever written a few short stories and a monologue. Hopefully you can improve upon that.

Good luck. If, at the end of your stay in Japan, all you discover is that all Japanese kids are great, you could have done a lot worse.