Wednesday, August 23, 2006

am listening to Regina Spektor right now.
Got a CD of music from Sofya when i was home, and a couple of her albums are on it. I heard of her for the first time a couple of years ago; downloaded her song randomly when was looking for Strokes' songs. She toured with them, i believe. She's got a very pliable voice, she can go from low and hoarse to high and clear. Quite nice. Writes and plays her own songs.

anyways. this isn't about a new musician i have discovered, although, that's important. i've been feeling disconnected from the new and old music unknown to me. When i came home, i was asking people if they would recommend i listen to someone they've been into so as to expand the selection on my MP3 player. It worked, somewhat. Now i just have to start searching and downloading. A slow process with the available connection speeds.

But at least the electricity doesn't go out on me anymore. First time it happened, Ben and i were celebrating David's bday party at my house. We had lots of lights on and they all went out. a few times during the evening. A couple of weeks later i went home to the States and didn't think of it again, until Kelly mentioned that while her parents and her were visiting my place in my absence, the lights went out. Her father felt bad because he thought he did something to my AC, but it wasn't their fault at all. When i got home, late last Monday night, i turned on a few lights and the AC and they all went out on me. I checked on the neighbors' windows but i was the only unlucky on. Started flipping switches in the box and they came back on. This happened three or four times that night, until i finally gave up and fell asleep with open windows, frustrated but too tired to do anything more. The next day i complained to my supervisor, fortunately i told him about the lights going out before my trip home so that he knew this was a repeat of an issue and not just me being a whiny "gaijin." An electrician was called, he putzed around (this is an actual expression meaning "to putter about"), and the lights and AC worked. Earlier that day i was trying to do laundry and vacuum after a 3 week absence and things kept going out on me. You can imagine my frustration. So i was very happy when it got "fixed." Yes, in quotes, because it didn't. Not really. I was carefully using the electricity that night and the next, but was gone Thursday through Sunday, so didn't know that i had lost and regained electricity at least once during my absence--my answering machine resets itself when the power is lost. Oh, and my fridge stank of slightly melted then refrozen meat. Great. Ben came over Monday night, i had lost power twice in a row already before he came at 6pm. The electrician lives across the street, so i went over to get him, but he wasn't there and i called Mr. Taira, the man of the hour, the boss of all bosses, the awesome, english speaking superintendent of the Ogimi schools. am sure i have mentioned him before. He was over with the electrician within a half hour. Ben and i were eating couscous out of a pot with two candles glowing by our side. Ben was telling me about his very recent trip to Indonesia and i was telling him about the new JETs and the weekend trip to Tokashiki island. The electrician came in and smelled slightly of alcohol and was very confounded by the loss of power when all the switches in the box were "on." He went to work. Close to 8pm, i had power. Yeah! Mr. Taira, knowing that we hadn't yet had dinner and were hungry (couscous doesn't count), took us to a nearby, previously undiscovered by me Chinese restaurant. Delicious gyoza is worth going back for.

So that settled, i can tell you all about everything else. but briefly, you must be tired of reading already.

Last week was hot, humid and busy. Flew in Monday night, met a few new block JETs Tuesday, failed a driving test Wednesday, drank with old and new JETs at the Beer Dome on Thursday, was late for a Junior H.S. Q/A i co-lead with Jaimee (the aussie) on Friday, joined a bookclub meeting that same night and had a couple of drinks at Paul and Mike's before retiring to a comfy bed in a cheap hotel in Naha. Saturday morning took a ferry out to Tokashiki with almost all the new JETs and a handful of "old" ones. The Tokashiki trip is an annual tradition that takes place the weekend after the "New JET conference" which is mandatory for all new ALTs and so a perfect opportunity to gather them all with a few of the experienced crew and send them to a gorgeous tropical island for a day and night of chilling, snorkeling, camping, drinking, swimming, etc. Good times. It was very different for me from last year, but that's understandable. The 1st year JETs were having a crazy good time, and I sort of stayed on the sidelines and had a relaxing couple of days. Not the best behavior for a blockhead, should have mingled more, but that's just me. I am very shy when surrounded by new people. Being here in Japan, on JET, has pushed me to come out of my shell and pretend i have a persona that allows me to be more relaxed and open to strangers, but sometimes that persona retreats and i remain behind. And i'm not as good at letting go of hesitations and self-consciousness. But i did chat with a few new people and they seem like a good bunch that are at the moment a solid clique of Group A and B, much like we were when we arrived. I will host a Block Event in the next few weeks to give time to the new kids to bond with the old ones in the northern area, although most of them have all met each other, so it'll be more of an excuse to do something fun on a Saturday afternoon.

Nothing much is happening at the school. Summer vacation is nearing the end; classes start on Monday. I went into school Monday and Tuesday and did nothing much. Today, Wednesday, i was learning about the different processes involved in creating Bashofu fabric that my village of Kijoka is known for. It's a two day workshop organized by my supervisor, Tatchi. He was there, and Akino, the substitute accountant at my school who speaks English as well three teachers from Shioya elem. school. In the morning we learned how to cut the fibers off the banana-like stalks of bashofu plant. Then we watched how they were boiled and sat inline with all other workers at the factory and learned how to take the impurities off the fibers with bamboo after they've been boiled for the first time. That particular task proved very difficult for me. I sat across from a young guy who was expert and after he was done with each strand of his fibers they were nearly white, smooth and wide. Mine were coming out all thinly twisted together and dirty yellowishbrown. And my back started to hurt after an hour of sitting cross legged. After lunch, which i ate at my apartment (a 2 minute walk from the factory), we cleaned the fibers some more and then Mrs. Taira (the superintendent's wife and a bashofu weaving veteran of 30 years) put me behind the weaving loom. I was weaving at a loom!! and it was working out. That's just almost unreal to me. Except i know that i had done it, and it was hard, and enjoyable and i was sweating buckets and really getting into making sure my borders were nice and neat and the weave tight and even. We were making coasters that we'll get to keep, and i realized that of course the fiber we were using wasn't the nice, final product type of Bashofu, but the crazy, almost falling apart fibers i was creating when i was learning how to clean them. So there ya go, everything can be used. I think the coaster came out good. Tomorrow we'll be learning how the fibers are joined together with weaver's knots to create one long string that is then fed through the loom with a spooler. That'll probably be tough. I'm thinking of asking if i can come in sometime and just practice weaving. Prolly not, they don't have time for eccentric "gaijin" but maybe not, maybe they'll let me enjoy myself a wee bit more behind a loom.

The weather has been changeable. It rains for no reason. There aren't any typhoons but the rain comes in strong, brief gusts and leaves a clear, scorching sun behind to dry up my laundry after it's been made wet yet again.

In the process of putting up pics from trip home right now. I might do a photo blog with a few of them in a couple of days.

I just finished a children's book of Terry Pratchett's, The WeeFree Men. Not his best work, but i suppose good as a kid's story. Has some of his regular characters from the Discworld series, like Granny Weatherfax. She says something interesting at the end of the book when talking about witchcraft:
The thing about that it's not like school at all. First, you get the test, and then afterwards you spend years findin' out how it happened. It's a bit like life in that respect.

So this here experience is a test, and maybe that's why i sometimes have a really hard time being introspective about it--i haven't passed it yet.



Jingjing said...

Weaving, very interesting! Great, u found a Chinese restaurant, so I won't miss too much about my home food. C u very soon at Okinawa

Craig Mauelshagen said...

I liked 'Wee free men' but mostly just because of the Nak Mic fiegel or whatever the little blue men were called, they were pretty much just glaswiegens of which I've known a free and they are an accurate portrayal.

chris said...

i stopped on your blog to make sure that you were still alive! it sounds like life has been 'puttering along' as usual for you. it's been ages since we've hung out with a bit of wine and good company, so i move that we do so in the next few weeks. i'd be quite keen to round up a few other usual suspects as well. atode ne?

J.L.S. said...

Hi Elina
I was searching more clear information about the process of bashofu, 'cause right now I am translating about it into Spanish, but the text is not clear. I couldn't understand what it wanted mean.
Thanks for share your expierence. It is useful!
Greetings from Chile.