Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Typhoons, mud soccer and a mid-lesson chunder.

So before I start this blog post, I thought I’d best warn you, not much has happened here in Ainan this past week, so I might struggle for material... LOL JK it’s been the busiest week OF MY LIFE.

Before I get into the banal, light-hearted shit, there’s an altogether more serious matter to discuss. On Friday, Typhoon Talas hit. Luckily for me where I am in Ainan, the damage was more collateral – the epicentre was some ways away. Nevertheless, the winds were still strong and the rain heavy. Even though I was in relative safety where I was, it was still an interesting experience – the kids all got sent home early from school as the storm clouds loomed overhead, and forecasts were warning that it was going to be “a big one”. Coming from neutral England with its neutral weather, it was a sense of foreboding I’ve never really experienced before.  

The next day on Saturday, the winds having settled, I went for a barbeque in Sunokawa Park with Elayna and the Ehime gang. It pre-empted the next day’s Mud Soccer festival in Sasayama. Sadly for me, I was relegated to the role of mere photographer, as my status of newbie-in-town meant I hadn’t had time enough to fix up a team of my own. (There are currently provisional plans for me and Tom to field a team next year under the classy name of “Serving Fish”. Watch this space). Either way, this newbie-in-town had his own fair share of fun taking it all in. The Ehime JETs fielded three teams this year. Having come decked out in their best fancy-dress and woke up at the crack of dawn to make the drive to Sasayma, their efforts were all rewarded with a triple first-round knockout. Elayna’s team – the welcomingly-named “Lady Killers” – had their hopes dashed when a second-half hand-ball by goalie Emma resulted in a penalty which they conceded. Bummerrrr. Not that the swathes of unknown paparazzi cared whether they won or lost. They were girls. And they were covered in mud. And they were foreign. All of that taken together means photographic frenzy in Japan... whether the photographers know you or not.

Yo Japanese Bitch, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you finish... but take a faceful of mud, suckerrrr.

                                             Team Lady Killers... got killed. Awkward.

                                  I really wasn't lying when I said there was a papparazzi scrum.

With every last drop of mud washed off (I managed to pick up a surprising amount considering I wasn’t actually playing), it was time to catch an early night’s sleep ahead of my first few days as an Elementary School teacher. And holy SHIT did I need it. Whenever I tell my co-workers in Japan my age, they're all awed at how young I am. Well, these hyperactive kids certainly did a good job of making me feel like an old man. Fuck karate, if you want to stay fit, just become an Elementary School teacher. Within five minutes of walking through the door, you go from Ordinary Human Being to Human Climbing Frame. You’ll be grabbed from all over, your clothes will be lifted up... they won’t hold back. But they’re fucking CUTE AS so they can get away with it all. Not to mention playtime, running around in the insane heat. Just thank fuck I’m not fat. Apparently all the first-graders at one of my schools ate their lunch at top-speed so they could hurry outdoors and play with me, all the while saying “Jim-sensei, Jim-sensei” over and over again. Literally criminal cuteness. And their Sports Day practices put Johen to shame. From Sozu, my school tucked up in the mountains which has just FOURTEEN students in total, I wasn’t expecting much of a dramatic performance. Well, I was wrong. What I got was a bunch of six-year-olds putting on a show on unicycles to AKB48. Since when did I live in a place where I could say that sentence and not be lying? SO GOOD. 

It being an elementary school with small cubicles,
I had to adopt something resembling
this position to fully fit in the cubicle whilst
lying down.
Of course, these kids are hard to keep up with even when you’re on top form. But when you’ve had your Welcome Enkai the night before (at which you may have awkwardly taken the “all-you-can-drink” offer too far and passed out at the table), it can be torturous. You think I would’ve learnt by now, but it seems I packed my mantra of “tomorrow’s another day” when I left from home. So that was me, last night. Full on KO’d at my own welcome party. It’s all good though, when I eventually came round, it was to the sight of my Japanese Teacher of English in a similarly unconscious state next to me. Lad. If he can do it, so can this gaijin. Unsurprisingly then, the first thing I did when I arrived at school this morning was find the cold, loving bathroom floor and lie down on it for ten minutes solid. Splayed out on the floor in my little cubicle, surrounded by mountains and the sea outside, I, even through my pain, couldn’t help but laugh at it all. Things got a little less (i.e. a lot more) funny from thereon in. Put simply, if you make me play “What’s the time, Mr. Jim?” with a group of 50 dosed-up six year olds, I’m going to have to leave your lesson halfway through to chunder. Just saying.

On top of all that, I’ve somehow found myself running in the 200m Teachers’ Relay at Sports Day on Sunday. FUCKING GREAT. Time to show them all how manly and good at sport I am. LOL. Literally, having to conform to the "I'm-a-man-therefore-I-fucking-love-sport" stereotype is killing me. Nobody at home would even entertain for a second putting my name and "sport" in the same paragraph, let alone sentence. Still, when I can get paid to sit around and watch kids on unicycles all day, I'm over it.

Oh, and check out the poster I made for Johen's English Room. I'm not even going to be modest. It's fucking mint:

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