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March 2004 - Snowboarding and Hitchhiking

My First Movie Rental
I finally started renting movies here.  I rented "Amelie" because I'd always wanted to see it.  I took it home and realized that the only languages available on the DVD were French and Japanese.  So I watched a French movie dubbed in Japanese on an American Xbox that I hacked with a Chinese-made modchip purchased from a Canadian company.  Yeeeehaaaaw!  Needless to say, it was a night of interesting Japanese practice.

AEON Performance Evaluation
The AEON trainer Chad came out and evaluated my performance.  It went better than expected despite having only 1 student plus the evaluator in the room.  He talked to me about my future at AEON and said that "Honsha [AEON's headquarters] has their eyes on you."  I got a little freaked out by that, but I think he just meant to say that I could potentially get a promotion someday.  Unfortunately, Chad doesn't realize that I  didn't take this job for the money or promotions.  I was making three times as much money when I worked in IT.  As for the evaluation, I got docked for doing too little error correction and not following the dress code.  Who says cargo pants ain't dressy?!

Snowboarding, Tottori-Style
I went snowboarding twice--once with one of my students and her coworkers, and another time alone.  One of my student's coworkers was a really interesting guy.  He was all decked out in hot pink ski gear, and just kinda broke off from everyone and did his own thing.

The time I went alone, I hopped on an empty bus on a brisk Monday morning.  Half-way through the trip, the previously empty bus filled with Japanese elementary school kids.  I guess that bus doesn't get many white boys decked out in snowboarding gear on Monday mornings, so I got quite a few stares from the school kids.  Amazingly, I got off at the right stop.  I waited at the ski resort's shuttle bus stop--my one and only way up the mountain.  I waited and waited all alone at this shuttle bus stop in the middle of nowhere.  It started snowing.  Is this shuttle bus even coming?  I started worrying.  Am I at the right place?  I tried to make out the kanji on the sign next to me.  My limited kanji knowledge assured me that I was in the right place.  It should be here in 2 minutes or so.

An old Japanese man pulled up in a rusty old truck.  He smiled a toothless smile at me.  Was this the resort shuttle bus?  He asked me where I was going.  I told him the name of the ski resort.  I think he told me he could take me there.  I say "think he told me" because I was comprehending about 10% of what he was saying.  He spoke like a typical old Japanese man--guttural, barely-discernible mumblings.  It's the perfect challenge for anyone learning the language.

Without thinking, I hopped in.  Japan is a safe country.  I'll be fine.  It's not that far anyways.

He tried to make conversation as he drove up the curvy, ice-coated mountain roads.  He started with typical conversation questions like, "Where are you from?" but he soon broke off into extended rumbling passages.  My comprehension dropped to less than 5%.  I started doing what I call "hai through it."  "Hai" means "yes."  But it's also a sign that you follow what the other person is saying (similar to "uh-huh" in English).  When I detect that I'm supposed to respond, I'll say "hai," or another similar expression like, "Is that so?" "Oh, really?" etc.  It usually works like a charm and frees me from the awkwardness of dead conversational silence.  Plus, it usually works out to be a more educational experience that wallowing in confused surrender.

I smelled something.  Alcohol?  I saw the old man pick up what looked like a soda can and take a sip.  A key kanji on the can snatched my attention.  I've seen that one before!  That means liquor!  Oh shit.  This guy was literally drinking and driving--driving up icy mountain roads.  I was on an icy highway to hell.

What should I do?  Get out of the car?  I'm in the middle of a frozen nowhere.  I'll die of exposure out there.  I resolved to ride it out, but grab the wheel if something happened.

Lucky for me we arrived at the resort alive.  He was a pretty good drunk driver.  I'll give him that.  He insisted on giving me his phone number asking that I call him when I'm ready to leave.  I thanked him warmly and bolted out of the car.  Note: Find other means back down the mountain.

Snowboarding itself was a blast even though it was snowing at the time.  I was 1 of the 5 people there most of the day.  I snowboarded directly back onto the lift as soon as I reached the bottom.  At its most crowded part of day, the "line" had one other person in front of me.  I found a nice pair of sunglasses on one run.  I decided to do the Japanese thing and turn them into the resort's lost and found as opposed to being a dick.  I'd say the only thing I didn't like about the Japanese slopes was that were dominated by skiers, so there were no fun snowboard jumps or ramps.  I'd have to find a larger resort.  This one was small, but close and empty.  Duly noted.

When it was time to leave, I found the real shuttle bus down the mountain.  It was quite different from the rusty truck.  My hitchhiking days were officially over!

Super Happy Fun Fun
My fellow teacher Bryan and I put on a pronunciation class.  My boss Akiko asked me to come up with a title for the class, so I suggested "David and Bryan's Super Happy Fun Fun Pronunciation Clinic."  She said OK and even made a big poster to promote the class.  It was super happy fun fun!

Band's Gettin' Back Together
One of my students asked me to join his band, so I did.  So far we've had 2 practices, and it's been really cool.  We're putting together a bunch of cover tunes, as well as a few songs from my old band back in the USA.  I'm also gonna perform my 2 Japanese songs cuz I'm really curious how they'll be accepted by the fine people of Tottori.  Fortunately, the other guys in the band like the songs.  We're doing our first performance at the end of May at one of Tottori's only music clubs (Afterhours).  It's really exciting getting back into the performing thing.  Once the weather warms up, I'm considering heading to Osaka on the weekends and performing solo on the streets there.  People tell me there could be a niche for a white boy singing in Japanese.  We'll see...

Tottori Dance Club
I took a taxi to Tottori's only dance club on a Saturday night.  It was CLOSED.  Curses on this town!  What a waste of 2000 yen!

Too Many Jokes!
The head teacher scolded me for making too many jokes at work.  Whooops.  It was only a matter of time.  Apparently she's the strict one.  She kinda reminds me of my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Akins.  Even though she's only 5 foot 2 and 26 years old, I'm scared to death of her.  My coworkers know not to joke around when she's in the room.  Now I've learned that lesson too!  "She's coming!  Everyone behave!"

My New Bit
I still enjoy making stupid conversation in Japanese.  My new bit is asking people if their nose hair is long.  Useless Japanese word of the day on that one: hanage (nose hair).

Quickie
Speaking of new vocabulary, I taught the words "quickie" and "meat market" in my advanced class the other night.  Don't blame me!  They were in the newspaper article for that day.  Of course, I chose that article, but that's beside the point.

+3 Months
In other news, I got offered a renewal contract.  I renewed my contract for 3 months and can continue to renew in 3-month chunks as long as my performance is acceptable.  I think I'll keep doing that until my music/comedian/jackhole career takes off over here.

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