Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Seeing as how Christmas is nearly over for me, I should update before my time runs out.
I can't believe I've neglected my blog for such a long time! Things have been both busy and boring at the same time. I was teaching full-time up until last Thursday, and then have been entertaining a house guest until today and celebrating Christmas in pseudo-Japanese fashion.
Things haven't been so fluffy and lovely lately, unfortunately. My culture shock has finally decided to rear its ugly head. I've been slowly setting up my place and getting things organized in terms of utilities and payments and such. I thought I was such a clever bastard for doing the fuikomi (electronic transfer) for December's rent by myself but I laughed too soon. A few weeks ago, I got a call from the rental company (I only presumed) saying that they hadn't recieved my payment. I haven't been so frustrated since I came to Japan; I could understand the gist of what this guy was saying to me, but didn't have the vocabulary and language skills to defend myself and speak to this guy. I proceeded to collapse on the floor after the call and bawl my eyes out. In addition to that, I couldn't pay my phone bill because my bank doesn't pay bills, and I can't get to a bank or post office before they close for the day after work. Things that aren't even major were pissing me off, and still are. As Andrew and Yvonne put it, I have become one of those jaded, bitter gaijin. We have fun gaijin rants quite freqently. Anyway, finally got that sorted and transfered my rent today for December and direct withdrawl will start next month for the month of February. The woman I've been doing all my dealings with is so nice. She sent me a letter today, which I suspect was hand delivered to my mailbox, saying that I have to furikomi my rent this month, with furigana and a crude, handwritten translation in English. Yvonne was there to help me transfer, and I thought that it was only 42,000 yen, but its supposed to be 42,500. I hope they won't be too picky about 5$ and I'll just add it on next time.
I was finally paid for the first time in two months and it's such a relief. Money is still tight, but things are getting back to normal. Work is great and I'm really starting to feel at home. We had our bonenkai (Year End Party) on Friday night at a little restaurant in Kashiwa (a branch of the same place we held Christian's farewell party) followed by karaoke, of course. It was nice to relax and socialize with the teachers, who I don't normally have a chance to talk to at work. I was sat at the same table as the principal, Mr. Iwahara, the music teacher, Ms. Fujiwara, and few other teachers. The table next to us had Mr Nakamura and Ms Imai, two of the English teachers so I had some translators on hand. I also got out my handy mobile phone dictionary but managed to hold my own pretty well in broken Japanese and English. I also had a good conversation with the 1st year PE teacher, who is moving to a high school in Tokyo next school year. Everyone embraced me warmly and I had a great time. I even exchanged numbers with some of the female teachers and we'll go drinking together in the New Year. I was also invited on a ski trip over the February holiday weekend, which I agreed to. Although, I don't know if I will end up going... I can't ski, for one. I don't have the right clothes, secondly. I really wish I had brought my ski jacket now. UGH! Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it. What a pain! Andrew and I are thinking we might go visit Yvonne in Nagoya that weekend, since she's come to see us every month since October.
The day after the bonenkai, Yvonne came to spend Christmas. She helped me do errands and sort out house-related stuff. We shopped, we ate, we ranted, we sang karaoke. Monday was our big Christmas party. Christmas Eve is like Valentines day in Japan, so Yvonne and I rode the train out with couples galore to Odaiba, the big date spot in Tokyo. Andrew and I have been talking about Christmas and our "White Christmas" party for ages, and he actually procured a turkey in Tokyo. I never thought we'd find one, let alone get one, but we did. It was a pain in the ass, and I'm never doing it again. Murphy's law prevailed, of course. Andrew's building has units that have their own kitchens, but in the other building, they don't so there are communal kitchens on each floor that have ovens. So the plan was to break in and use an oven to cook the turkey. Things started off well enough when we timed out entry just right, and got in without having to wait. We got off at the 6th floor, and people were in the kitchen so we went up to 7 and found it empty. We got the bird and stuffing ready and fired up the oven which had probably never been cleaned. Ever. The kitchen was a disaster. I though that the Totem floor lounges were disgusting. Anyway, we got the bird in.. and I went to check it and take out the gizzard and stuff after an hour and found the oven had turned off! First emergency. It took forever to heat back up again since the thing was so tiny and the turkey took up 80% of the space inside. In the meantime, I cooked the potatoes and carrots to heat up in the microwave later. Andrew and Yvonne had to make an emergency grocery run to get ingredients to make pumpkin pie while I held down the fort. A few people came in to cook their lunches and gave me the 3rd degree which made me feel really uncomfortable. I thought one of them might be an RA come to kick me out, but that wasn't the case. Long story short, 5 hours later, the turkey was done. I didn't think we'd pull it off but we did. Dinner was served at 7pm, and we stuffed our faces with good food and drink.
Today, Yvonne and I procured a rice cooker for me and discovered a great Singaporean Hainan chicken restaurant in Shimbashi. It was heavenly. Tasted JUST like jifan (chicken rice) back in Singapore. It is one for the books and I will return many a time before I leave Japan. Sent Yvonne off from Tokyo station and hunted for a book with Andrew throughout Ueno, with no success. We saw people pulling down all the Christmas decorations already and Christmas isn't even officially over yet. Tomorrow, everything will be replaced with New Year decorations and the big push to finish everything before the year ends will begin. I need to clean up my house, settle all my bills, and figure out where I am going to hatsumode on January 1st. Hatsumode is the first visit to the shrine in the new year. There is a big shrine in Kashiwa on the other side of the station but I have a feeling I'm going to get a call from Yoshimi or Mr Nakamura asking me to go with them.
Anyway, I hope you all had a fattening and festive holiday!