Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pleasantly occupied (except at work)

I have been quite busy over the past week and a half, although things at work are still slow and will continue to be until I receive the Japanese draft of the October Rainbow newsletter sometime by the end of this week. By the way, before I forget! You can see firsthand what occupies me most regularly at work by taking a look at the Fukuoka International Association's website and checking out the Rainbow newsletter and the Mail Magazine. The September issues of both publications are the first ones I have worked on. Translating is actually quite a fun challenge... I just wish I had more of it to do. I've heard from a lot of other CIRs that the summer is often slow, so I'm not too worried that my entire career here at FIA will be task-less. I know that when the delegation from Ipoh, Malaysia comes in Decemeber there will be plenty to do. That month there will also be the annual English speech contest for Japanese high schoolers, for which I wil be a judge. And starting in January, I will probably be quite busy for about 4 months as I prepare the international troupe for the Hakata Dontaku festival parade (which is at the beginning of May), while maintaining my regular translation duties.

To pass the time, and make it appear like I have work to do, I have volunteered to write an article for the CIR newsletter. It's been harder to develop the article than I imagined, since I've only been here a month, but in general I am writing about what my expectations for the program were, what the realities are, and what I'm doing/going to do to make it the best experience possible.

So like I said, I've had a pretty busy social schedule over the last week and a half or so. Last Wednesday I met S from NZ at Jusco (cheap shopping mall near our apt.), where we cooed over the puppies at the pet store and ate hiyashi chuka (good for hot weather). After work on Thursday, one of my female coworkers and I went to a trendy multi-bath hot spring next to Bayside Tower near Hakata Bay. We ate delicious tonkatsu, my first since coming to Japan, then spent over an hour lounging in the various baths/hot springs. We finished the night by going up Bayside Tower (which isn't as tall as Fukuoka Tower, but which is FREE) and the city at night was simply gorgeous. I would love to post a picture of it, but of course I didn't have my camera. And even if I had, I don't think it is powerful enough to capture a really great nighttime shot. You will all just have to visit me and see it for yourselves!!

Friday night was my welcoming party, which we had at a Thai restaurant in the nearby swanky Daimyo district. Normally such a party would have happened the first week I arrived, but everyone was insanely busy with the Oakland delegation and all the subsequent piles of paperwork (the rainforests are weeping), so it was pushed back a few weeks. I didn't choose the Thai place, but everyone knows I will eat just about anything so they decided on Thai food. Which was fine for me, but unfortunately a lot of my coworkers ended up not really liking the food (too sour/spicy for their sensitive tongues). But that wasn't my fault. One of my section leaders, who is very excited about practicing his English, sort of monopolized me for the evening (I was in the "birthday seat" at the head of a long table, so I was kind of far away from most people). But it was still pretty interesting. And we got a 20% discount because their AC was broken.

Saturday was quite busy. The gas guy came to check out my busted gas water heater unit by my sink (if I understood him correctly, it isn't dangerous, but the inside of the unit is something like 18 years old and no longer stays on for more than 5 seconds, so it needs to be replaced). Then I went to Hakata station, where I met a veteran JET and a newbie, and we took the Green tourist bus around the city. We ate lunch at Canal City (shopping a go-go), then checked out the Yahoo! Dome on the west side of the city. The Fukuoka JETs are going to a Hawks game on the 12th of September, and I CANNOT WAIT for my first Japanese baseball experience! I hear it's NUTS. I will definitely not be forgetting my camera that day :)

Around 4pm the other girls went to Ohori Park, but I went back to Hakata station and caught a train to Fukuma, which is about 6 stations or so away from the station closest to my apartment (Chihaya). Fukuma is outside of the Fukuoka City limits, and is the beginning of the countryside. My advisor's younger brother, who I met at that get together a few weeks back, invited me to the BBQ he and his friends had organized, and he picked me up in his (quite gigantic for Japan) car at the station, then we drove to the beach. It wasn't a pristine beach, but it was still the ocean! And the water was actually warm (I walked in up to my knees). Turns out there were about 40 people there, most of whom knew no more than one or two other people, but we got to know each other (especially as we continued to drink) and it ended up being really fun. We grilled endless piles of meat and veggies on portable grills, danced around to weird mo-town-like music, made shaved ice, and generally had a merry time. Once it got dark, some of the participants performed songs, and my advisor's bro rapped with a couple of his friends. It was quite hilarious and an interesting/fun experience. There were only a few instances of awkwardness, like when I first arrived and all the boys pulled out their camera phones and immediately began snapping pictures of me, and when I had to make a speech after all the performances were over, because I was one of two foreigners in attendance (the other was a guy from Denmark). Overall, I'm really glad I went. Since I'm a bit shy in those situations, I may have otherwise declined the invitation, but I am trying to say YES to as many things that come my way as I can handle.

That being said, I still think I overdid it a little on Saturday (in terms of fun-having/dancing/etc., not drinking, don't worry), because on Sunday I got up a bit early, caught a bus to Tenjin, caught another bus to Marinoa City (a huge outlet center with 2 gigantic ferris wheels in the western part of the city) and frolicked around with a few other JETs, trying to reform one of the boy's fashion sense. S from NZ's Japanese-New Zealander friend came with her UNIMAGINABLY ADORABLE year and a half-old daughter, who is learning both Japanese and English, and whose favorite word is "Elmo." We are going to this friend's husband's family beach house at the beginning of September ^_^ However, I crashed around 3 in the afternoon and had to excuse myself to be a vegetable in my apartment for a few hours, before I tried to finish cleaning and straightening up. There is one pile of junk left on my desk, mostly stuff from Tokyo orientation, that needs to be put away, but the apartment is just about ready to be photographed.

This week my goal has been to bring my bento box lunch to work 4 out of 5 days. It's a good way to save some yenners and control portion size, and today I hit bento number 3, so if I can manage to take my lunch tomorrow, then a coworker and I (the one who went to the hotspring with me last week) will eat ramen at Ichiran on Friday. I hear Ichiran is better than Ippudo... but I will report back on that matter.

The same coworker and I went out to eat okonomiyaki last night, which sounds and looks kind of disgusting but is INDESCRIBABLY delicious. I hadn't had it yet since being back in Japan and I had a mad craving for it, but going to okonomoyaki by your lonesome is no fun, so luckily my coworker was able to go with me. Another of our officemates recommended this place in Yakuin, just a 10-15 minute walk south of Tenjin. OH MAN. I think it was the best okonomiyaki I've ever eaten, no lies. I wish I had had my camera with me last night. I did take a picture on my phone, but the color is a bit off, and I'm SURE I will be going back to that restaurant again, so then you will be able to observe its gloriousness.

Ok, I think I have covered everything. More later this week!


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