Thursday, October 28, 2004

Couple of quick links

The Japan Times recently featured a couple interesting articles on the "Hello Kitty" craze in Japan. Kitty collector plans afterlife together as well

and The cat's whiskers of Kawaii


Any one who has spent any time in Japan is already well famalier with the Japanese obsession with cute, but for anyone who has not been to Japan these two articles provide an interesting glimpse into the madness.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I'm Okay!

Those of you who have been following the news know that it has been a rough week for natural disasters here in Japan. First a high death toll from an unusually strong typhoon. Then several people killed by an earthquake.

The area I live in wasn't hit hard by either the earth quake or the typhoon. But I appreciate all the e-mails asking if I was okay.

Actually I only recieved on e-mail asking if I was okay. Thank you mom. As for the rest of you....

The earthquake was far enough North that we didn't even feel it down here. The typhoon on the other hand was a little closer to home. It caused some mud slides in my prefecture and knocked out a few train lines, but my town itself was okay.

One of the stronger typhoons I've experienced since my time here though. I actually was stupid enough to go out driving in it Wednesday night (for no other reason than I was tired of sitting in my apartment). Several of the roads were flooded, and I thought for a while I might have to leave the car stranded on the road, but I made it back eventually.

The kids got sent home early from school on Wednesday because of the typhoon. I was hoping I would get sent home early as well, but the school didn't offer so I just stayed at my desk and studied Japanese. The company I work for made it very clear that if the school does not offer to send us home early, we should never suggest it.

Thursday was another good example of this. The students went home at noon because there was a teacher's "research meeting." Now this is the kind of thing that has "send the assistant English teacher home early" written all over it, but no one offered so I just went along to the research meeting.

The research meeting consisted of going to a neighboring elementary school and observing a lesson in progress. Afterwards we assembled in the gymnasium to talk about the lesson we had just watched.

The lesson we watched was a classroom debate. I think these classroom debates have gotten more popular in recent years in an effort to reduce the image of the Japanese educational system as stiffling all independent thought. Which is a good effort their making, but the topics of debate have got to be improved.

The topic of the debate I watched was, "Which is more convenient, conventional daily planners or electronic daily planners?" So the students were getting up and presenting their findings on the issue, showing the graphs they made and talking about the relative merits of a daily planner or electronic planner. And the disadvantages of both. And I'm just in the back of the classroom observing and getting ready to bang my head against the wall out of boredom.

Now granted this was only a 6th grade class, so it could be argued they weren't ready to debate world issues yet (although we did in my 6th grade class), but I've heard similar reports of mind-numbingly boring debates from other Assistant English teachers all the way up through the high school level.

As always I tried to disguise my criticisms as compliments. When talking to some of the other teachers afterwards, I would say something like, "That was really an interesting debate. When I walked into the classroom, I had no opinion on the subject. But as the class went on I began to realize that conventional daily planners really are more convenient. How do you feel about the issue? Which do you think is more convenient?" The irony seemed to be completely lost on my Japanese colleagues.

I also mentioned it to my girlfriend on the phone later. "That's the difference between Japanese and American thinking," she explained to me. "Americans always think they have to do everything so big, but Japanese people like to take time to make sure the little things are taken care of."

I tried to explain that my irony was lost on my colleagues, but I didn't know the Japanese word for irony, so I needed to pause the phone conversation to find my dictionary. After searching for a few minutes, I returned to the phone and said I couldn't remember where I had put my dictionary. "Aha," she said. "See? That would never happen to a Japanese person!"

Monday, October 18, 2004

What I've been up to this Week

I actually spent this whole weekend on various social excursions with the teachers I work with at the Junior High School.

I'm spending a lot more time socially with my Japanese co-workers here than I ever did in Ajimu. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I think that the fact that I am primarily anchored at just one school now means I establish closer relations with the other faculty here. And I think the greater number of younger teachers also helps.

Friday night I went out drinking with one of the Japanese English teachers I teach with. Although I say "went out" we actually decided it would be cheaper to just drink in, so after hitting a ramen shop we went back to my place for beer and potato chips.

Since he lives in another town, and because of the strict drunk driving laws in Japan, he wanted to crash at my place. Which I was cool with, but I did my best to warn him that my place was very dirty, and didn't have very many furnishings, and that in fact I did not have spare bedding. "It's okay. I can sleep anywhere. The floor is okay," he replied. I ended up picking up some more blankets and a pillow before he came over, so we were all right on that account, but I still have no tables or chairs in my apartment so we sat on the floor and ate the potato chips off of the floor. He was okay with all of this, but reacted with the most surprise when he found out I didn't have a TV.

Regular readers of this blog may recall me saying several times that I don't particular like drinking, but will occasionally do it for the purpose of social interaction in Japan. This was one of those times. He really wanted to drink a lot, and I had a beer or two more than I wanted. He was used to this kind of thing and up bright and early the next morning looking none the worse. I felt a bit queasy the following day, but I'm not entirely sure if it can all be blamed on the beer, or if all the ramen and potato chips and chocolate cookies swimming around in my stomach might hold part of the blame.

At any rate, in 3 years at Ajimu I never had a co-worker from school crash at my apartment, so I feel already I'm starting to bond with my new co-workers very well.

On Saturday I went with the husband of one of my co-workers to his company barbeque. This couple has been extremely kind to me since I've arrived in Gifu, and has often taken me out on the weekend. I did think it was a bit strange that I was invited to the husband's company barbeque, however.

What makes it a little more strange is that I initially recieved the invitation to this barbeque shortly after I had first arrived in Gifu, before I had even met the husband. His wife, who teaches with me, said to me during my first week of teaching that her husband would like to invite me to his company Barbeque. I wondered why someone I had never met would want to invite me to a company BBQ I had no connection to.

If I was cynical about it, I might say this was an example of a phenemon I learned about at the Tokyo JET orientation 3 years ago called "Gaijin Trophy" or the foreigner as a Trophy. The idea that having foreign friends will increase a Japanese person's status among their peers, so the foreign friend finds himself invited to all sorts of randomn events. However since this couple has been very kind to me since my arrival, there is probably no need to be cynical about it, and I can assume they invited me just because they thought I would enjoy it.

The other people at the company barbeque, however, appearently also found my presence a bit strange. I could over hear them joking about it at times.
"Who is that guy and why is he here?"
"I don't know. He's connected with Yokoyama's wife somehow."
"What kind of connection? Is it his wife's boyfriend?"

Despite feeling slightly out of place, I was able to meet many nice people at this company barbeque, and afterwards some of us went out for coffee and miniture golf. (Most expensive game of miniture golf in my life by the way. $15-only in Japan).

Sunday yet another teacher took me out to Takayama. (Okay actually it was the same one who crashed at my place on Friday night). Takayama is sort of like the Kyoto of Gifu prefecture, filled with old castles and temples.

Anyone who has been to Asia even for a short period of time has probably gotten sick of seeing temples very quickly, but to a certain extent sight seeing is like everything else people do for fun: It's not the sight seeing itself, it is just an excuse to interact with friends while doing something.

The high light of the day for me was a folk village we entered. My Japanese co-worker and his friend, both the same age as me, were somewhat reluctant to enter, but decided to check it out. "This my be the first and last time we go here," he said to me on the way in. "There's nobody here but old people."

Indeed, the place was filled with elderly tourists and a few other foreigners, thus seeming to prove the old joke that the only people interested in Japanese culture are the very old and the foreigners.

The folk village was however very picture-esque, and I think the Japanese friends I came with did appreciate that aspect of it at the end. The park was a recreation of an old Japanese mountain village. It had old moss covered straw roofed houses around a pond on a hillside, and a water wheel that was powered by a stream that flowed into the pond, and even swans swimming around.

The drive their and back consisted of going through what appearently was geographically the exact center of Japan. "The people in this town want to make this the new capital of Japan," my friend explained to me. "But the rest of us think it would be a terrible idea." I looked out the window at all the rice fields and country side, and considered his point.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Outrage Overload
If you've been following the same websites I have, you've probably already seen these stories. But these are so outrageous they deserve to be screamed from the rooftops until everyone has heard about it. If you have a blog, post these stories. If not, e-mail or tell a friend.

From Eye Witness News (Via This Modern World).

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.
Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.
The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at democrats. Thee focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.
The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.
Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.
--snip--
The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.

Also see here: "The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee." And here.

Also Phil wrote this post. I think he'd agree it needs to be seen by as large an audience as possible, so I hope he'll forgive me lifting it entirely from his web log:

This is too important to ignore. Seymour Hersh, one of the most important living investigative journalists, has been telling this story in speeches and on the Diane Rehm Show.

HERSH: I got a call last week from a soldier -- it's different now, a lot of communication, 800 numbers. He's an American officer and he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. It's a place where we claim we've done great work at cleaning out the insurgency. He was a platoon commander. First lieutenant, ROTC guy.
It was a call about this. He had been bivouacing outside of town with his platoon. It was near, it was an agricultural area, and there was a granary around. And the guys that owned the granary, the Iraqis that owned the granary... It was an area that the insurgency had some control, but it was very quiet, it was not Fallujah. It was a town that was off the mainstream. Not much violence there. And his guys, the guys that owned the granary, had hired, my guess is from his language, I wasn't explicit -- we're talking not more than three dozen, thirty or so guards. Any kind of work people were dying to do. So Iraqis were guarding the granary. His troops were bivouaced, they were stationed there, they got to know everybody...
They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, "No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents."
You read those stories where the Americans, we take a city, we had a combat, a hundred and fifteen insurgents are killed. You read those stories. It's shades of Vietnam again, folks, body counts...
You know what I told him? I said, fella, I said: you've complained to the captain. He knows you think they committed murder. Your troops know their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Just shut up. Get through your tour and just shut up. You're going to get a bullet in the back. You don't need that. And that's where we are with this war.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I'm going to have to be more careful about what I write...
because I got in some trouble from that last post. Not least of which from my girlfriend, who wrote, "I DIDN'T COMPLAIN OF YOUR WATCHING SERIOUS MOVIES. MY TALKING ABOVT YOU TO OTHER PEOPLE IN THAT NIGHT IS JUST LIGHT JOKE FOR GOOD CONVERSATION. I COULD ENJOYED THE MALCOLM X MOVIE VELY MUCH TOO." (It's all in caps because I copied and pasted directly from the cell phone e-mail). I have to confess that I did know she was joking at the time, and so perhaps my saying that she had complained was a mischaracterization. And, as you can imagine, my admission that I have been saying that I have no girlfriend in order to chat up girls has done me no favors.

Also, in the previous post I wrote that "There were a lot of people I really wanted to see this weekend, and also a lot of people that I wanted to see if it worked out, but I wasn't too fussed about it." This was a horrible choice of words on my part, and I've received a few comments on it. It was not meant to refer to friends, but rather people I felt I had social obligations to but no deep friendships. For instance the board of education where I worked the past 3 years. I would have liked to see them if it worked out, but I wasn't really upset about not seeing them this weekend. Although it might sound like I am back-peddling now, I honestly did not mean to trivialize the friendship of anyone I wasn't able to see. Because I was essentially only back for two days (Friday and Monday being mostly travel days) I did attempt to cut some losses around geographic areas, and limit myself to people in the Usa-Gun Area. (Of course if I would have known I would have spent a whole day on Sunday going back and forth on the trains, I might have planned things differently, but that's in hindsight).

I did, in my defense, write a couple posts back that I would be back in Oita, and anyone interested in getting in touch should call me. And I would have made every effort to meet up with anyone who had contacted me on this note. Of course I do realize that not everyone reads every word that I write on this blog, and that half the burden for getting in touch is on me.

I apologize and I hope we can get in touch next time.

Monday, October 11, 2004

My Weekend in Oita

When I left Oita at the end of August, I assured everyone I'd be back again before to long. After all I'm still in Japan. It would be a pity not to make the odd trip down on a long weekend. The first long weekend I held off because I didn't have the money, and what's more I had Sports Day to contend with. This weekend though I took advantage of the Monday off to head down and see the old gang. (Ideally I would have taken along some gifts to repay all the gifts that I had recieved during my farewell, but you know me. It was all I could do to get organized enough to pack my suitcase and catch my flight.)

First lesson: I'm not going to be able to afford to do this every long weekend. It costs about $400 dollars just for me to get to Oita and back, far more than I had planned on paying at first. But travelling in Japan is not cheap, and it is well known that it is cheaper to travel from Japan to another country than it is to travel within Japan itself. (In fact I think things may be to the point where a lot of Japanese people accept this as the way things should be. Last week I had a Japanese woman ask me why it costs her so much to get a plane ticket to San Francisco, but it was so cheap to travel from San Francisco to Minnesota. She reacted with great surprise when I said in America it is cheaper to travel within the country than it is to travel abroad.)

I took a plane from Nagoya airport down to Kyushu. As always, all the instructions were broadcast both in English and Japanese, but somewhere during the course of the flight I realized I was the only foriegner on board, and all the English broadcasts were for my benefit only. I do of course realize that they do the bilingual broadcasts as a matter of habit, and would probably do them even with no foreigners, but still it made me feel a bit special. The only thing was when they got on the speaker and said things like, "Ladies and gentlemen, the captain asks that you please prepare for take-off..." I thought it would be more appropriate if they would just say, "Joel, the captain asks that you would please prepare for take-off," etc.

After 3 years in Oita I have, as you can imagine, many friends and contacts down there. Even though the ex-patriot community is in a constant state of flux, I still know a lot of people, and then there are all the Japanese friends. There were a lot of people I really wanted to see this weekend, and also a lot of people that I wanted to see if it worked out, but I wasn't too fussed about it. Since a 3 day weekend is too short of a time to see everybody, I decided to keep a relatively low profile lest I cause hurt feelings by having people hear I was in town but didn't contact them. As such I didn't make most of my phone calls until after I had already arrived.

I came in Friday night and spent Friday night and Saturday with my girlfriend. It was a great relaxing time, and I feel we really have a good connectiong. She showed me some pictures from her trip to China. Sensing an opportunity to use one of the Japanese phrases I had learned recently from my textbook, I commented, "No matter what they may say, the Great Wall of China is very famous."

She paused, then started laughing as she said, "You learned that from one of your Japanese language textbooks, didn't you? YOu're just like a parrot sometimes."

We did a relaxing Saturday night in by just watching a video. I got her to agree to watch "Malcolm X". I had already seen it, but having just read his autobiography I wanted to see the movie again. She was a good sport about it, although I found out later she complained to other people that I always watch such serious movies. I tend to take pride in those sort of complaints though.

Quick sidenote: I believe "Malcolm X" is the finest biographic movie ever made. But watched in a vacuum (say by a Japanese person with limited knowledge about American history) one can get the impression that Malcolm X "was" the civil rights movement. In reality of course one of the reasons he got so much press was because he was in opposition to many of the other leaders, and I tried to explain this point after the movie, but it got me thinking..."Why aren't there any other movies about the civil rights movement?" Discounting the appallingly historically inaccurate "Missippi Burning" and the comic book like "Panthers", "Malcolm X" stands on its own as the only movie about the movement. Or am I missing something? But why aren't there more movies made about this?

Okay, back to my weekend: The girlfriend was working on Sunday in the Ajimu Winery in my old town of Ajimu. The Ajimu Winery was putting on a wine festival that weekend.

Japanese people gaurd details of their personal life very closely to the extent that during the time we've been going out my girlfriend has gone to great pains to make sure her co-workers at her company know nothing about me. I'm not entirely sure if I like this policy, but I've been retailating by telling everyone in my new residence of Gifu that I don't have a girl friend. As it allows me great freedom to chat-up girls and not feel guilty, it is quite nice when it works in reverse.

Right, anyway: The girlfriend made it very clear to me that if I was to go to the wine festival I was to keep a low profile, and under no circumstances was I to acknowledge her at all. So I was on my own to entertain myself most of the day. The original plan was she would take me into Ajimu with her, and then drop me off and I would make plans to meet my friends from there.

But as I made a few phone calls on Saturday night I found out that a consequence of my keeping such a low profile on my return was that most of my usual contacts in the Ajimu area had other plans on Sunday.

I knew from 3 long years of experience that there is very little to do in Ajimu on a Sunday afternoon by oneself without a car. And there is no train station in Ajimu, so once I was there I was stuck there. Much better, I thought, to get the girlfriend to drop me off by the train station in Hita before she left for Ajimu. By train I could travel around the Usa-Nakatsu area and hit up all my contacts there.

The girlfriend just laughed when I mentioned my new plan. "The train doesn't go from Hita to Usa," she said. "You'd have to go all the way to Fukuoka first to change lines."

"Oh" I said. Still I was reluctant to give up on it completely. "I could go to Oita city," I said.

"Yeah you could do that, but I don't think that's much better," she replied. I decided to give it a go anyway. I slept in when she woke up at 5 in the morning to go to work (that was the only good part about my plan).

I spent a leisurely morning . I finally wrote some thank you notes to the students from the homestay, who had presented me with gifts at the end of July. Long overdue obviously, but again this is me.

I walked to the Hita station later in the afternoon. When I looked at the train schedule I saw what she meant. From Hita Fukuoka was actually cheaper and closer than Oita city. But at this point I was really low on options, so I hopped on the train in the direction of Fukuoka. "I'll just keep my eyes open" I thought, "I'll run into a place to change trains before too long."

Next thing I know I'm all the way in Fukuoka. And then I change trains and begin the long journey back to Usa. In the end it was one of my stupider decisions. When I only had a couple days to spend with old friends, I spent an entire day riding trains and then coming back.

There was a dinner organized Sunday night by the Usa gang as an excuse to see me. I ended up arriving an hour late for my own dinner after all the monkeying around with the trains. "Why are you so late?" someone asked.

"I ended up taking the train all the way to Fukuoka. I don't want to talk about it," I said.

"Why didn't you just take the bus from Hita?" someone else asked.

Bus? GRRR. Why didn't I take the bus?

It was good seeing a lot of the old gang again in the end. I just wish I would have had more time as I spent most of the evening just having token conversations and trying to make sure I had said hi to everyone. Next time I'll have to spend more time with friends and less time riding the trains.

Addendum: Whilst in Fukuoka, I tried to make the best of a frustrating afternoon by visiting the English book store there. I stumbled across a book called, "Take Back the Right" by Philip Gold, which I bought on a whim. It's the story of a life long conservative who talks about how he left the conservative movement after being so frustrated by the Bush administration. Since I don't consider myself a conservative, this isn't the kind of book I usually read, but I like to keep an open mind by exposing myself to anti-Bush books from all across the political spectrum.

It's an okay book, nothing I'd recommend too highly, but the author has a good sense of wit and humour, and the book had a couple gems I couldn't resist re-telling here on this blog.

One is he talks about he's years working in a political think tank, and says that pity be unto the think tank analyst who forgets the maximum: "Here's your money, here are your conclusions, now go do the research."

And then there was this story that made me laugh: Appearently after the cold war the CIA was trying to figure out why they never knew who weak the Soviet Economy had really been. It turns out the CIA economist had been using Soviet numbers for their analysis. The Soviets by contrast knew that their own numbers were junk and they didn't rely on them. Instead they were looking to the CIA's data, which kept telling them what good shape they were in.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

So I find myself back in the internet cafe again. And I'm really proud of myself for knocking out a bunch of e-mails yesterday, so I thought I'd take the luxury of writing another post.

First off you'll notice I've re-arranged things a little on the right. I've been referencing to my friend Aaron's blog for a long time, but I finally got around to making a permanent link to it. And because I thought my list of links was getting a bit long, I re-organized it into "friends from home" and "friends from Japan". That way if you're a friend from home, and you've been thinking to yourself, "Who are all these strange people he's got links to?", then you can just look and see they're friends from Japan.
I should add that people in the "Friends from Japan" catagory are people I've met in Japan, not necessarily people who are still in Japan. For instance Nick in Oita is actually in Korea now. Now that I've got Aaron's link added, next on my list of things to do is change the tittle for Nick's link, but I'm a busy man.

Also I've been visiting the prefectural library here in Gifu, which is much better than the library in Oita, and even includes several new books. I thought I'd throw some
Book Recommendations
everyone's way.

First off is "All The President's Spin" a book on the Bush administration. I know there are a lot of polemics against the Bush administration out there now, and that I've linked to several of them before on this blog, but what makes this book unique is the credibility of the authors. The book is written by the authors of the website Spinsanity which is well known for being a truth dector against the right and the left, and has a repuation for fairness. If you don't trust Micheal Moore, than you should like these guys. (Who, by the way, have in the past also critiqued much of Moore's work ).

The book, in amazing detail, documents all the misleading statements made by Bush and his administration. Misleading politicians are of course nothing new, but this book makes the case that the Bush administration has taken it to a whole new level. It's important that many people read this book I think because even today I still hear a lot of people say things like, "Bush has made some mistakes, but I think at heart he is an honest man and we can trust him." If you think that, I highly recommend you read this book. I promise you it is not a liberal screed, and the authors make every effort to be fair and preserve their reputation as non-partisan.

The other book I read was Richard Clarke's "Against all Enemies" which really needs no introduction because it was one of the most talked about books of the year. One of the most talked about, but probably one of the least read. Who do you know who has actually sat down and read that book? I know many Republicans are refusing to read it on principle, and a lot of liberals are thinking to themselves, "I already know Bush is an idiot, I don't need this book to prove it to me. Besides, I know the general gist of it because it has been all over the news."

True, but it is rather shocking when you actually sit down and read the whole book. Richard Clarke makes some very serious charges about how George Bush has bungled the war on terrorism and made America less safe. I know Clarke's credibility has been attacked, but I think given the charges he makes his book deserves to be given consideration. Since Bush is essentially running on 9/11 and national security, (and because Dick Cheney has said that a Kerry election will mean another terrorist attack) I think anyone planning on voting for him for these reasons would do well to actually take the time to sit down and read this book before they mark their ballot.

The next book I recommend is not so current, and perhaps falls in the "Classics" catagory, but I finally got around to reading "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" and now I'm wondering why I never read it sooner. I guess I kept putting it off because I thought it would be really dry and boring, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I don't know if Malcolm X or Alex Haley should be given credit for the writing style, but the book is not like so many other dry autobiographies out there. A good autobiography is a rare, but wonderful thing, because it allows you to feel like you know a historical figure personally. This book falls in that category.

Links and things
Aaron's weblog, brilliant as always, contains this excellent analysis of the Presidential Debate. I should mention that I don't have a TV in Japan anymore, and have been relying on other people's descriptions, and the daily show internet clips which are really funny if you can watch them from your computer. (Tip of the hat again to Bork for turning me on to them.)

Aaron then follows it up with this post which shows the hypocracy of those moral crusaders on the right.this post which shows the hypocracy of those moral crusaders on the right.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Another Week, Another Post
Again another week between posts because I don't have internet access during the week. And although no one has been complaining, I feel obligated to apologize again for not answering any e-mails this week.
Anyway, things have not been too eventful this week. I had a regional meeting for the company I work for yesterday. It was somewhat similar to the JET conferences we used to have back in Oita, except this was on a Saturday. Which is getting to be a bit tiring, because it means it is my 3rd Saturday in a row working. (The two previous Saturdays were sports festivals). That frustration aside however it was mercifully brief (only 3 hours) and allowed me to meet some of the other English teachers in my area.

You would think an "area meeting" would be held in our area, but it was in Nagoya city. Which means Monika and I had to wake up extremely early again to catch the train. Because of my previous miss-ups with the train schedule, Monika took great care to explain to me the night before that, "Remember, we are leaving at 7:10. And that's the time you want to leave your house, not the time you wake up. Don't oversleep this time." Fortunately I didn't mess up this time.

As much as I hate early mornings on a Saturday, it was nice to be in Nagoya city for the afternoon. After making everyone's acquaintance in the morning meeting, we all went out to lunch together, and then starbucks, and then the English bookstore, and various other places. Saturday night was a "friendship party" in Nagoya, which we found out about because it was organized by someone else at the company who was at the morning meeting. The "Friendship Party" was based on a similar party in Tokyo, which was just a way for people to meet eachother and make connections. We went there in the evening, and it was good fun and I did meet a few nice people.

Other than that I don't think there is too much to report from this week. Next weekend is a 3 day weekend in Japan, so I'll be taking advantage of the holiday to go down to Oita again and see the old gang. If anyone in Oita is reading this and wants to hang out, just give me a call.

Also, if anyone cares, my successor in Ajimu, Josh, is perhaps doing a better job documenting life in Ajimu than I ever did. On his weblog he includes many things I never did, like pictures and even a map of where Ajimu is. Anyone interested should check it out.

Addendum: Just realized that my picture has been posted on the Godo town website here. I sincerely hope that this is just a case of a bad picture and not reflective of what I usually look like. (I've never been good at posing for pictures). The site is in Japanese, so I'm not sure if it is easily accessible from America or not.