Monday, 31 August 2009

The Great Move: Success!

The shifting may be over but the settling in has only just begun.

I had all of last week off (marriage leave), which gave me a chance to finish filling and painting the new place and start moving stuff in. Mika also took time off work -- between a whole lot of pre-term* meetings -- so that we could get everything shifted.

*The new school term starts tomorrow. Yay for real work!

Everything was out of my old apartment by the end of Wednesday and we had shifted quite a bit of stuff from Mika's place. On Thursday I went to Nakamura to get some organisational things for our rooms and cupboards. I went back again on Friday to return some things and find alternative means of arranging everything to fit into our limited space.

Eddi came with me on Friday. We stopped at the beach on the way. It was really nice. We also popped into the furniture store for a little while. We want to get real beds some time soon. I took her to MacDonald's for lunch, we shopped at a hardware store and we had ice creams on the way home. ^^

Over the weekend we continued shifting things out of Mika's place -- when we weren't waiting at the hospital. Saturday was a bit of a waste of a day because we went to the hospital in K-town so that I could get my ingrown toenails sorted out. After a lot of waiting and going to see two different doctors, the only thing I got out of it was a prescription for another toenail issue and the recommendation not to get surgery on my toes.

Which means that after all that we have to go and see another doctor (probably in the city) to sort out getting my feet fixed for good. Yay for stubborn Japanese medical professionals. At least we managed to slip in some much needed shopping.

Yesterday was possibly the most difficult day for us, in terms of shifting. We still had a lot of Mika's possessions to move. But now that it is all over and done with, there is merely the task of unpacking our hundreds of boxes and bags and finding room for everything. It seems that things have been non-stop since the wedding. :/

A guy came and installed an air conditioning unit, too, removing the old, decrepit one from the lounge. He also removed the one from my old place but we can't get that installed until next weekend. Oh, and it was raining yesterday, which made things interesting.

At least things should become somewhat normal now. We have a place to live, summer holidays are over and we have schedules to follow. We can get into a good pattern of living as we work our way through everything at the house and accustom ourselves to the new environment. Bring on the next few weeks of settling in...



Friday, 14 August 2009

A Year In Review

My experience here in Japan seems to differ somewhat from other people's. Not only am I in a rather isolated place, but culture shock has never been an issue for me. Sure, I have been surprised at some of the things that I encountered here, but nothing really life-changing -- in the sense of cultural differences and adjustments -- has occurred. Getting married within a year of coming to Japan was pretty huge (and unexpected), but that's beside the point. :p

And in reverse, I really can't see myself having to readjust to life in New Zealand, if we move there in future. If culture shock was the boredom of not having a laptop on arrival or experiencing a very chilly Christmas, then reverse culture shock will be surprise at petrol costs or how cheap milk from Pak 'n Save is.

When I write a book about my experiences in Japan, I'll have to exaggerate everything, including my sudden plunge into Japanese society. But the truth is, I don't feel as if I interact with Japanese culture enough for it to really affect me. All of this bowing and being polite hasn't really rubbed off on me yet; and I have passed the one year mark.

Mind you, the language sure is taking its time to sink in. You'd think that after a year I would be highly motivated to dive into my books and really focus on shoving Japanese into my head so that I could communicate. But without the dire need to converse in Japanese, the motivation just hasn't come. But I'll get there -- I know I will...

So yes, it has been over a year. Which means that life will begin to repeat itself. This last week was Kochi's infamous Yosakoi festival again. I, however, didn't see any coverage of it. I did see some people practising when my family were here, though.

Then, of course, is the upcoming Ayu festival, which takes place around these parts. And then we will be graced with various summer fireworks displays. This year, we plan on seeing a bigger display than Nakamura can offer.

Mika and I still have two houses between us; we will hopefully be able to paint Mikey's old place next week. She is back at work on Monday so it might have to wait until the weekend. I just want to be done with this whole split between two houses arrangement that we have going on. We are both still paying rent plus all of the utilities that come with having a place -- twice. So, the sooner the better for us, both financially and as a family.

Yesterday, I had a migraine, so was resigned to take a day off and suffer in pain. My head actually started hurting on Wednesday afternoon, so I finished work an hour early and went home to bed. Mika was away for Tuesday and Wednesday nights, staying with her brother's family at their new house in K-city. I didn't eat between Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtimes, but after talking to my wife on the phone, she encouraged (read: ordered) me to go to her house and make something to eat. Which I did, despite the agonising pain in my head. It was also good to get out and about, and I was able to recover enough to not have to go back to bed after returning home.

It's no wonder I suffer like this, though, sitting for so long in front of a computer screen. I should be dividing my time between browsing, learning and preparing. It would actually be quite wise to get onto more preparation for the new term, as I may not have as much free time during the week to prepare shougakkou lessons. It seems that I have a more permanent schedule after summer, teaching at four shougakkou consistently and an extra chuugakkou (Taisho). Because now that Michael has gone, they need me to fill in at least some of the gap -- the new ALT is living in K-town, which makes teaching all the way out here too difficult, I guess.

On a final note, the weekend is upon us -- well, pretty much. Mika doesn't want to do any driving this weekend, after all the driving she has done this week. I am going to assume that that means no long-distance travelling, which puts the idea of looking for a bed and/or table out of the question; at least for now.

What's most important for us at this stage is getting the go ahead to paint up the place we are moving into so that we can begin moving our stuff in. My biggest issue is getting rid of these JCF library books. We are still looking for a replacement librarian. Hopefully it will be someone in this prefecture, as that would save a whole lot on courier fees (if I were able to take the boxes somewhere myself).

Here's to continued beautiful weather!



Monday, 10 August 2009

The Wild River

I went to the river after work and took some footage on my phone. Filmed about two minutes' drive from my town, from a bridge by the local michinoeki (rest stop). This is the Shimanto River (shimantogawa) after some serious rain. It is also very foggy up here in the mountains, as you can see from the video. Enjoy!

The Shimanto River Rages


Changes Forthcoming

On the matter of updating the style and appearance of The Japan Journey: I fully intend to implement some very noticeable changes. In fact, a complete overhaul is in the works. However, until everything is settled and our lives are back into a standard rhythm, I can't conceptualise or implement any real changes to the blog.

Stay tuned.


It's Raining, It's Pouring

Rainy season is supposed to be over, and yet we have had a rather incredible spell of rain that saw the river rise immensely and the local trains brought to a halt. There was a lot of lightning last night and yesterday the river was simply amazing (and very brown) to look at, with the choppy water flowing rapidly between its very wide banks.

Today, sun showers have kicked in, although the clouds may very well extricate themselves of their last vestige of super-soaker solution tonight on a slightly grander scale. Then again, considering how much precipitation has actually fallen, we may have seen the last of it for a good while yet.

Now the real heat begins.

Let's take a step back though, shall we? Although Mika and I have yet to move into our very own house -- we are still split between our two respective places -- our living arrangement hasn't been all bad. Sure, we are still paying rent for two houses, one of which is seldom visited (mine), but things haven't quite been worked out yet regarding our shift. And so we shuffle back and forth on occasion, trying to live a normal married life.

It's not always easy at first; especially with all of the changes that take place. Our intentions are good, though, and we do have goals in sight. One step at a time will see me get my PS3 slim us happily settled and ready to focus on building a life as a family and getting involved with whatever pastimes and activities we can spare the time to pursue.

The Friday before last (we need a word for this, much like oxt is used for the week(end) after this one -- maybe axt?)... So, axt Friday, I spent the day in the office. Yes, this is August. This is my summer routine.

Well, as with every August office day, it passed without much ado. Just your usual Facebook and Google Reader activity. I installed Windows 7 on my laptop that night. How this relates to ninjas is beyond me, but I'm talking about it anyway. After all, if ninjas knew where I lived, do you think I could continue to write so freely?

Ah, so, I spent a long time that evening fiddling with my display settings, but finally managed to get everything working fine. And no ninja attacks, either. Whew!

It also turns out that we are not tutoring Mei-chan this month, which is yet another relief as we try and get to the point where we can settle into our new life. Because until we have shifted into our new place, things just won't be settled.

Axt Saturday, we went to Tosa-shi to do some shopping. We had left Eddi with her grandparents. We followed Tosa up with a visit to Mika's brother's new house. It's-a very nai-su. :o

After a MacDonald's lunch, we looked around the lovely house and even set up their flash new dining table. We took Aki off Mai's hands and went to get an oil change. Worst oil change ever, as it took around two hours. Why?! Well, at least we went to Mr. Donut...

That night, we dropped Aki off at her grandparents' to stay over with Eddi. Yay for an evening to ourselves. ;)

After church the next day, we paid off some of our outstanding wedding expenses. We ate with Mika's parents that night: yakiniku! For some reason, the girls stayed over for a second night. Lucky!

Last week's Monday through Wednesday isn't really worth mentioning. We had Tuesday night to ourselves again and so watched a movie at my place. A/C is very nice to have, too.

On Thursday, I took nenkyuu. We had planned to go to Nakamura but in the morning I cut my finger quite seriously, having to get stitches, and so we spent most of the morning at home.

We did, however, manage to get out to K-town, which was good. We paid the last of our wedding expenses and did some good old-fashioned grocery shopping. Also, the Board of Education in K-town gave us two wedding gifts! How nice of them.

The custom here in Japan is that you return more than just a thank you card to those that gave you a wedding gift (although money is very common to give / receive too -- we actually received quit a large sum altogether). It is customary to go to the effort of using some of the money that you recived to buy gifts and give them in return. It seems like a strange thing to do -- after all, I instinctually want to use all of the money that we received to help us set up our new life together.

But that isn't how things work here. I now see that it is actually very nice to buy gifts for everyone -- although the effort that you have to go to is just as tiring as most other such things around here. Because honouring custom is more important than how you might feel about something. And because everyone does the same thing, you can actually expect things to happen in a certain way, which I guess gives people extra security. Because knowledge is power? Something like that, anyway. ;)

The weekend came and went. I met Mika's uncle and aunt on Saturday night. They recently travelled to China, and showed us pictures of the Great Wall and other places that they went.

My Japanese has not progressed in the last few months. I just need to find the motivation to delve back into my textbook or to pick up some kanji cards and go over (and over and over) the vocabulary. Without the drive to actually do something I sit in a perpetual zone of language frustration. Until something pushes me into a mode of actually wanting to learn rather than grinding my teeth at not being able to express myself or understand anything that is vocalised around me, I will continue to simmer in this hiatus.

I reflect on this part of my Japanese life from time to time. But reflection is not enough to download understanding into my brain. Learning a language is a very slow process and one that takes dedication and opportunity. It's enforcing that dedication and grasping those opportunities that results in progression.

It is actually my hope that once we have settled our lives somewhat and we are back into the swing of things -- when school starts up and lesson preparation is obligatory rather than a sidelined event -- I will find those opportunities to practise and break out those materials again.

Something akin to Japanese Wednesdays would be a good starter, as would consistently shoving vocabulary into my head and then using it at random times. Perhaps it is the summer heat. Perhaps it is the lax office attitude. Or perhaps I am still whirling somewhat from the stresses involved with all of our wedding planning and implementation.

Whatever the case, the day will come where I get focused and get serious about language learning again. I do have all my life to learn my wife's language; but why take an entire lifetime to learn something when you could spend that time enjoying the benefits of knowing and using it?

We shall see when August comes to a close. Here's hoping that we will move, settle and get into a good weekly routine that benefits not just us as a family but our own individual lives and the lives of others around us.