A New Hope

I have a renewed sense of hope in Japan. I have been trying to discuss Star Wars with my teachers at school, and I have received no sense of enthusiasm when I've brought up the subject. However, today at school, Batman-Yoda has led me to believe there is perhaps a trace of excitement although perhaps a bit of confusion about the up and coming movie. All I can say is, "Wow!"

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Clear and Present Danger

After a fulfilling and educational class of reciting/yelling the numbers 1-12 to first grade students, I long to reach the teachers office where I can have a few minutes of solace before we begin practicing pronouncing fruits in my next class. However, to get back to the office and rest I must first escape the classroom. This is a clear and present danger which I am now aware of.

First I must get out the door. The classrooms at my school have sliding doors. Today I thought to myself, perhaps if I only give a narrow opening in the door then they won`t be able to follow. Sounded reasonable except for the fact that I didn`t realize that they would just all collapse in mass hysteria and laughter at this technique. However, now I`m out the door and as a result of my failed attempt I`m surrounded en mass by twenty students. I am getting hugged in all directions, conchoed* in all sensitive areas of my body and fearfully I fight the possibility of falling to the floor (which actually happened last week).

Alas! I break free! Using all of my former running technique I sprint, yes literally sprint, for the teachers room. But the little rascals have already thought of this possibility and now they have somehow magically formed a multi-tiered attack. The first wave stops me twenty feet from where I just escaped. The numbers aren`t quite as strong and I only have to fight off five screaming children. After breaking free I hit the second wave which comes kamikaze style at me. Thankfully this wave is weaker and I am beginning to believe there is hope! I escape and now its students flying in from all directions, mass chaos has ensued and it looks like I might be victorious and even get to sit down for one minute as their plan is beginning to fail. Once I`m finally in sight of the teachers room the fear of Koucho-Sensei (the principle) strikes them and they decide to join ranks with me and hold my hand the rest of the way back.

Yet another victory for this crazy gaijin (foreigner)!

Please note: If you have any good solutions to escaping such a well coordinated attack, please let me know!

*concho (v), pron. kan-cho

1. An Ancient Japanese form of torturing AETs. To be effective, place both hands together in the form of a gun and extend forward aiming for sensei`s derriere.
2. Another effective method is to aim for the sensei`s frontal regions.

Example: You won't believe how many times I conchoed Blake-Sensei today.


The Power of 7

First, an admission of inadequacy. My written ability to tell a story is quite lacking. I do not have the command of the English language that my dear friend Peter extols with eloquence, nor the brevity that my comrade Gabe has. Fortunately when I tell a story verbally I have one powerful ally, and that is my ability to erupt into debilitating, near paralyzing laughter which typically can shut my respiratory system down for a brief period of time. So as I attempt to tell this story, if you begin to dose off, just imagine a huge grin breaking out on my face and then eruptuous laughter.

I go to a small church in a small town called Shiromatsu. We do not have a consistent preacher, and thus every sermon is and can be an adventure. This morning's sermon was doubly so.

The topic was Christian evidences. Enter exhibit A: the number seven. Most of you view the number seven with deference, ignorance, and perhaps even scoff at this "perfect" number. Not any longer. You see, seven represents how we can know God.

1st: There are 7 days a week. Every time you look at a calendar you can see that God is there because there are 7 days a week. Ok, certainly God originated the 7 day week with creation so I can see the point on this one.

2nd: There are 7 colors in the rainbow. Again, God created the rainbow so I can see how this is also plausible evidence although not something that is going to make me jump off my agnostic or atheism ship.

3rd: There are 7 sounds in music. Do - Re - Mi - Fa - So - La - Di. Starting to get a bit sketchy, but sure, I'm still on board.

4th: And this is where I began to about lose it and instantly covered my mouth trying to give off an appearance of intense thought. There are 7 seas in England!? What? There must be a God!

5th: American sports teams sometimes use the lucky number seven. With every fiber of my being I try to restrain myself from erupting by this point. I suddenly start to feel disappointed that I only have five fingers on each hand or else I could submit them for evidence as well.

This is of course compounded with joy when you realize this all comes out in mixed Japanese/English. I do want to say I have immense respect for this man, and though I'm only had an opportunity to spend a couple of Sundays with him I consider him a dear friend and brother. He is incredibly intelligent and deeply spiritual and he has a vision for the church of Japan that is inspiring. Also, a fact I later found out was that the Japanese actually have a fixation on numbers and it has cultural significance to them that I yet don't know about. So something was inevitably lost in translation and the sermon I'm sure was very effective to the Japanese which is what is most important, neh?

So please, show a little reverence to the number seven.


Eigo Kai (English Meeting)

To give you an understanding of what teaching, or working for that matter, in a foreign culture is like I want to give you a bit of a walk through of my day. Now granted, today was a special day, which I was alerted to way back in late April to start preparing for, but of course the importance of the day was totally lost to me. With that background information, let's begin:

I get to school about 15-20 minutes early which I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is always great fun because it freaked my teachers out at first since I'm American and expected to do the bare minimum since I'm lazy. So the fact that I would work an extra minute was just completly unfathomable. Anyways, I head to the school gate and greet each student with a 'genki' good morning and the day starts off like most.

The morning goes by pretty normally until I'm told that I'm not eating lunch with the students like I do normally. I'm told to sit down at the teacher's table, and so I eat lunch with the teachers. Or at least for awhile. 10 minutes into lunch, and only halfway through the meal, I am whisked away to the announcement room to be broadcasted throughout the school. Unbeknownst to me, this had been in the works for some time, and thus I give out a cheerful, "Hello my name is Blake!" and thus concludes another enlightening period of English with me and students.

Then at 1:00 PM the head of the English program for Mito city comes for my evaluation. My head english teacher, the vice-principle, her and myself all sit nervously and have very uncomfortable, unnatural conversation for a while in half-English, half-Japanese. Then at 1:30 my evaluation begins...

Apparently I have no clue how important this evaluation is because I thought it was a normal class with a bit of extra preparation and the head of the program watching. All of sudden teachers pour in from all directions, some even repelling off the roof and diving through the window trying to find space on the floor between the 20 adults now watching these thirty very nervous children. Class goes well, as I perform various clown acts of teaching English before thirty students (not a problem to be goofy to them) and twenty or so adults who have no idea that I might have an intellect beyond saying the days of the week. Then I'm whisked back to the principle's office, and eventually to the Eigo Kai.

The most hilarious, and frustrating part of the whole day then comes. I'm like, "Good! I'm finally going to get some real feedback here." Do I? No! Because its all in Japanese. They completly forget that I'm there seemingly and randomly I hear "Bulaku" (Blake) and realize that they are talking about me. A few lines are translated for me, but not enough to really know whats going on. Finally, out of nowhere I'm asked to speak on my impressions of the class and totally caught off my guard I throw in some polite evaluations that were definitely very political in nature since I'm not going to say anything derroagatory in such a group. And then back to full blown Japanese and the meeting is finally over.

Crazy, neh? That's life in Japan.


The Force is not With Us

Today I am depressed. Oh only superificially of course, but today I had major longings for being home. The reason? My people, labeled perhaps scoffingly as nerds by those in 'cool' circles, were out in full force today. And yet I could not be with them.

You see, I love huge nerd outings and a Star Wars premiere has got to be the largest gathering of crazy fanatical people in this galaxy, if not the universe. What's worse, those friends who I would have attempted to culture were sitting lazily at home, probably in their beds at 12:01 AM. I do not know of a single person who went to the opening show. That is a plum disgrace and thus I wish I could have been there to urge at least twenty of my good friends to see this spectacular display of story telling and witty dialogue.

Alas, I will have to wait till July 9th till it opens here. I actually really contemplated going to South Korea and seeing the film today, and given my emotional state I certainly wish I would have. But as Yoda says, so poetically, "Do or do not. There is no try."


Reincarnation: The Third Life

This is my second attempt at the reincarnation of my blog. Theoretically the success of my last reincarnation should determine the success of this incarnation. I hope Buddhist philosophy does not hold true since I only held to that idea for less then a week.

I am a bit at a loss for what to do with my blog. I've always been annoyed at blogs which chronicle peoples lives and perhaps I've been wrong on this point. Perhaps that is one plausible way for people to communicate with those they cannot email or call on a regular basis. That possibility seems more plausible thousands of miles from home in a far away land. And while that may or may not be the outcome of this new endeavor, I do feel a need to share the transforming process of God and of a foreign experience. Also Japan gives me immense material to work with since it is totally different from any Western experience I've ever had.

And thus I've stolen the clever title from Bilbo's book, "There and Back Again." Japan can seem quite like Rivendale and also quite like Mordor from a spiritual, emotional and psychological standpoint. Therefore, hoping against all American hope that the title is not trademarked, I've decided to use this title to begin the chronicling of my life here in Japan.


p.s. The secondary purpose of my blog will be to keep Peter's dad up to date on what his son is doing in Japan. :)