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December 2004 - Gettin' in the Newspaper, Japanese Class, Parties, and Concerts

First Time in the Newspaper
My student Ayumi works for the Asahi newspaper here in Tottori, and she asked if she could interview me.  It was fantastic PR because she focused primarily on Mondaiji (my music/comedy project).  The article appeared in the Sunday edition a few days later.  There was even a picture from the live show I did at Afterhours.  I went to Japanese class that day, and all the teachers in the class said, "Hey!  You're in the newspaper!"  One teacher copied the article and gave it to everyone in the class to read.  They want me to play a few of my songs in class sometime.

AEON Halloween Party
We had a our annual Halloween party at AEON, and it was a blast.  I was a ninja with a mullet wig, and even played a few of my silly songs for the students.  We had a trivia game and a costume contest too.  My manager Akiko won hands down.  Her drunk Japanese businessman with a "barcode" comb-over wig costume won the hearts of all in attendance.  One student went all-out with a panda costume.  Unfortunately, he got  a little over-excited in his costume and accidentally broke a glass partition in the lobby.  Whoops!  It was a great party, and we had the shattered glass to prove it.

Shikano Concert
I went to a concert in Shikano--a way-out area in the middle of nowhere in Tottori.  It was unbelievably entertaining--the kind of entertainment I extract from WWE pro wrestling events back in the US.  Japanese bands sang mostly American oldies.  One particular band called Foxy Lady was all young women decked-out in red cowboy hats and boots.  The young female bassist couldn't have been over 21 years old, but she rocked the hell out of the heavy Fender bass that otherwise dwarfed her petite stature.  They didn't play country music as I was expecting--mostly crowd-pleasing sing-along rock and oldies.  Lots of old people danced while I feasted on awesome local beer from the sidelines.  It felt like I was at someone's retirement party or 50th wedding anniversary party.

Rebecca from the UK
My fellow foreign teacher Bryan is leaving next week, and the new teacher is Rebecca from the UK.  She arrives Saturday and the welcome / farewell party is this Sunday.  I'm gonna sing a few songs there (including 2 Christmas songs I learned).  I don't know much about Rebecca other than the fact she's female and from the UK, so I guess we'll have to wait and see!

Burritos and Guacamole
I've long had a Mexican food craving gnawing away at me (you crave what you can't easily obtain), so I made myself burritos and guacamole.  I was elated to find the required ingredients at a local shop that carried import foodstuffs.  Unfortunately, the prices weren't exactly what I remembered in the US.  They came out awesome, so they were worth every hard-earned penny.  I licked the bowls and plates clean, thus saving me from having to do the dishes.  I also took a stab at making sangria.  It came out pretty good, and the taste reminded me of my trip to Spain just before moving to Japan.  It was kinda funny drinking sangria in Japan.  I tried to recall some of my high school Spanish, but all that came out was 10% Spanish mixed with 90% Japanese.  Japanese has officially taken over as my one and only 2nd language.

First Ryokan Experience
I stayed at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) with my girlfriend Kayo.  I had always wanted to stay at one as I had heard good things from others.  The room was very traditional Japanese with a tatami mat, and it therefore looked like the martial arts training room from "The Matrix."  I totally wanted to do a ninja battle in the room, so I staged a brief one with Kayo.  I took a bath in the communal hot spring bath (onsen).  Knowing that I would have to be naked in front of old Japanese men, I also took a ninja approach to this experience.  I waited until it was very late at night, so I had the whole bath to myself.  Maybe I didn't have the "true" experience, but it was nice not having old Japanese men stare at me and my associated Western peas and carrots.  The next morning we had an awesome breakfast, but we had to get up sooooo early for it (7:30 am).  The entire inn had an alarm clock to wake everyone just after sunrise.  So much for sleeping in.

Mondaiji CD
I completed my CD, so now I begin trying to convince the people of Japan to buy it.  It will be an interesting test of the Asian market.  I have a concert in Osaka scheduled for 1/16, so I'm doubly excited.

Japanese Class for Japanese People II
Japanese class continues to be an ample source of amusement.  They rotate volunteer teachers each week so that we can experience different teachers.  This one older guy Satoru is so hard to understand.  I get maybe 20% at most, and he picks such difficult topics to talk about.  Last week he discussed the history of the solar and lunar calendars.  I was like, "I don't even know or understand this topic in English!"  One of the Japanese assistant teachers even said that it was difficult for him, and he's Japanese!

Satoru also likes making jokes with me (I stand out as the only Westerner in the class).  I have no clue what he's saying, so I always just say "yes" to get through it (aka "hai" through it).  This approach has sadly backfired on me several times because the entire class will shoot me a shocked reaction to something I blindly said yes to.

The Sundays I enter that classroom and see that he's gonna teach the class, I think "Oh shit!  Here we go!"  Well, at least he's a nice guy.  The other female teachers are much easier to understand, but it depends mostly on the day's topic.  When we talked about cooking, I understood about 95% since there were plenty of visual cues and simple vocabulary.  When we talked about the Japanese education system, I got about 65%.  Too many unknown words will toss me into a swirling cloud of ignorance.

Azo Forest
I was bored one Monday (Sunday / Monday is my weekend), so I decided to ride my bike to Azo Forest Park, about 22 km (14 miles) away.  I recently bought a cheap mountain bike with shocks and gears, so I decided to break it in.  I was a great countryside ride laden with incredible landscapes.  It took about 3 hours to get there cuz it was all uphill.  The last 3 km was grueling on the heavy steel bike.  It made me really miss my titanium mountain bike collecting dust in my friend's garage in Studio City.

I rested about 15 minutes in the forest, then started heading back.  I stopped at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere to eat.  It was called "Woody Kitchen," and being so randomly located in the deep forest, it resembled the kind of place where little wandering children are kidnapped and turned into delicious pot pies.  I was the only one in there.  I nervously clenched my fists as I took a seat.  This guy came out and said, "Picture!" and suddenly snapped my picture.  I felt like I was a panda in the zoo.  Luckily, I was not on the menu, but my picture was posted on the restaurant's wall along with the other foreigner celebrities.

It's Good to be the Foreigner
I bought lunch at this new place, and the woman gave me a frequent diner card with 3 stamps, along with a ticket to play this raffle game going on in the mall.  My coworkers got angry cuz they only get 1 stamp and no ticket.  I said, "Hey...at least people don't stare at you wherever you go!"  There's balance in everything.  I played the raffle game and won a 3000 yen gift certificate.  They put the winners up on this bulletin board.  Mine was the only name in katakana (not kanji).

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