Friday, 9 July 2010

Farewell parties 1 and 2

On Tuesday, we had the farewell/welcome party for the English department at Tokusho, but since the part-time teacher who left this year didn't come, and nor did her replacement, I was the only one coming or going. We had a classy multi-course meal (in my case fish-free) at Kaikatei, a restaurant that seems to specialise in European cuisine. It was mostly fine, until everyone started ignoring me and chatting away in Japanese, which I largely ignored, being in a beer-induced dreamlike state. At one point, however, the conversation turned to my successor, and the concern that how could she possibly ride a bike to Kagikou half an hour two times a week. I mean, she's a girl! Never mind that I've been having to do this for a year and a half now. Never mind that there are students that cycle further than that every day.

Really I'm just bitter because when Higashi, which was 5 minutes from my apartment, closed down, I suddenly had a much longer journey to school on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I wanted the board of education to get me a new apartment. They refused. Fail.

Anyways, the best part of the evening was not having to pay the customary excessive party fee, I suppose since the thing was held partly in my honour. Hooray for that.

On Wednesday, I had a farewell party with my Japanese teacher and her other ALT students - T-rex, Sarah and Emma. The Fourth was absent. We went to Paparina, the Italian place between my teacher's house and Kagikou. Afterwards we went back to her place and chatted and ate cookies and took pictures. She wanted us to write letters to ourselves, which she'll send off in a year along with a note from her. Sarah and Rex wrote theirs then and there, but I wasn't in the mood and so I'm planning on going back next week and dealing with it then.

Incidentally, here's my teacher's dog, Nonchan:
She's a year old toy poodle who likes eating plastic and still isn't house trained. Just before we left she peed on the carpet after eating large volumes of watermelon rinds.

After saying a probably final farewell to Sarah, I headed home.

Now, the 7th of July in Japan is a festival of sorts called Tanabata. I never see much hooplah about it here in Tokushima, but it's traditional to write wishes on pieces of paper, hang them on bamboo branches, then sometimes to light them on fire. I'd never done it before so I wanted to do it on this, my last chance while an ALT in Japan. The problem was that after the party, it was about 10 o'clock, and I didn't know where to find any bamboo. I couldn't find any on my bike ride back home, and was about to give up when Emily, who I'd called earlier, told me there was bamboo in this little garden/grove area near my apartment. I wrote a wish on a piece of manilla envelope and took it downstairs.

The problem was that though in my head I could readily believe there was bamboo in the grove, I couldn't actually find any. At least, nothing that my brain recognised as bamboo. It didn't help matters that there was no lighting in the immediate vicinity. I had my camera, however and tried taking flash pictures to locate bamboo. Like this:
Anyway, time was running short, since if I was going to light the thing, I had to do it at midnight, which was fast approaching. I more or less gave up and hung the wish from the most convenient branch of whatever this is in the picture. Then I used an Ingrid's International lighter to set it on fire.

I don't know if you've ever lit a manilla envelope before, but unlike regular white paper, it doesn't smolder slowly and go out at the slightest breeze. It sizzles like magnesium and instantly erupts into a large flame. I panicked, since I didn't want to become known as the ALT who burned down a garden. I blew on the flame, but they were so strong that they just went brighter. I didn't know what else to do, so I just kept blowing, and eventually, just as the last bit of paper burned away, the fire went out. Crisis averted.

After all that, I just hope the wish comes true now.

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