This last week life has returned to its usual rhythms — Jen is back in the office, and Japanese classes and taiko have recommenced. We also had a “January Blues” (as in, fighting the January Blues) party at our place last night. And next Tuesday I start my job!
Both Jen and I have new Japanese teachers — Jen has inherited Hotta-Sensei (my teacher from last semester), while I now have Oikawa-Sensei. Transferring teachers mid-textbook is a little jarring, and we’re both having some transition hiccups as we get used to our new senseis. Oikawa-Sensei is very demanding, which is great, since the classes can tend to move a little slow. She introduces a lot of new material, and expects us to do a lot of learning beyond the classroom. However, I don’t think I could really call her a hard-ass… she giggles all the time. And at odd moments… we all just look around at each other wondering what’s going on and why she’s laughing. At any rate, once I’ve gotten used to her slightly different teaching style, I think she’ll be great, but at the moment we spend significant amounts of time staring blankly at her, trying to figure out what she’s looking for. She’s always super-well-prepared for class, with all kinds of magnetized teaching aids and so forth, which I think bodes well. I’m at the point now where I can understand a handful of words in everyday conversation, but still can’t communicate normally at all… I have phrases for ritualistic interactions, for things I do all the time (like buy groceries, or order sushi), and basic sentences like “Excuse me, where is the train station?” or “Inside my purse there is a newspaper.” But anything beyond that, and all I can do is pluck keywords, smile encouragingly, and apologize a lot.
In taiko this term we’re going to be learning a sitting piece, which is apparently going to require a dramatic increase in sit-ups, as all the motion is done through leaning forward and back while the drum is between your knees in front of you. We have a new member from the embassy though, so I’m no longer the only American. And next week Katie and Yuko are going to come give it a try, so maybe I’ll get some extra taiko buddies! 🙂
For our January Blues party, we tried to make summery things to alleviate the gray post-holiday doldrums of mid-January. I made pulled pork with bbq sauce (and fixings for a pulled pork sandwhich), key lime mini-pies, and thai summer rolls (with lots of help from Vida and Jen). And then everybody brought all kinds of yummy food. We had a really diverse group — folks from the embassy, old and new friends from around Tokyo, and some of the taiko ladies. All in all, a very fun evening.
For the holiday weekend we’re heading out to one of the biggest fairs/markets in Tokyo, and we’re also gonna hit up a local bbq place which is supposed to be fantastic. And then Tuesday I start work! I’m super excited. I need a little more structure in my days, and this particular job is pretty task-oriented so I think I’ll really feel useful. I hope so anyway!
Now, I have no pictures to go with this post, but you should all head over to the British Natural History Museum’s annual Wildlife Photography Exhibit webpage and take a gander at their stuff. The snowdrops may be my favorite this year.