First post and explanation
So I'm up bright and early Saturday morning. The night before I'd had one too many swigs of alcopop before I'd returned sometime after midnight and had quietly vomited in the toilet while my host family slept, but I felt fine come sunrise, save for a certain unavoidable tiredness. Alcohol robs you of REMs, you know.
The reason I had no chance to sleep-in was a mandatory HIF excursion. They like organizing these sorts of things, to make us bond in a regulated environment where we're fairly forced to speak Japanese. It's a little infantalizing, but necessary. We'd all just speak English peppered with Japanese words in strange constructions otherwise ("Man, I totally yokudekitaed that shiken once I got past the yomimono. I'm not too jouzu at kanji but I can kick the bunpou's ass..." for example. No, I swear I'm not exaggerating. And no strange looks, they do it to our language, we can do it to theirs just as easily. So there.).
So what was this excursion? Climbing a mountain. Why not. We were supposed to do so with our host families, but Kouichiro got sick the night before the climb and his mom stayed behind with him, so it was just my host dad and my little sister. We slathered ourselves with bug repellent, got into groups, and proceeded to trot up the mountain.
This looked sketchy to me, because as far as I can tell the mountain is one vertical rise of impenetrably thick forest, but it turns out there's a very windy, very steep path through the woods when you get to the end of the paved streets that peter out up the side of the slope. The path was long, muddy, and slippery, but my extremely inconvenient boots that I've had to lace and unlace every time I'm entering a school, a household, or just special rooms served me well this time. Ankles protected, no slips, no sore soles, unlike most of the other students trying the climb in sneakers. I had plenty of time to admire the ancient trees and the buddhist alcoves all along the climb.
I was also wearing my Swedish army jacket (or as HIF friends have taken to calling it, my homeless bum coat) and fingerless gloves. It was a breezy summer day in the low sixties and with killer humidity, walking, as we were, literally into a cloud that completely shrouded the mountain peak. I got sweaty. Very quickly. Students repeatedly asked me if I was hot with that sort of tone that suggests, "I know you're hot and you should take the damn jacket off and stop being so weird." The air was literally thick with mosquitos though, and I wanted as little exposed skin as possible, so I waved off their questions and stuck to the sweaty hobo fashion trend. I prefer the half-hour's discomfort of being too hot and a little dehydrated to the several days' discomfort of roughly two billion mosquito bites per square inch of skin surface.
Did I tell you bug repellent never, ever worked when I was a kid? Anyway, I remain completely bug bite free, something the rest of the students can't all say.
Seeing the city from the mountain peak was, of course, gorgeous. We ate snacks, played the Japanese version of pinata with watermelons on the ground, and chatted idly for a little while till it was time to descend. Oof. I had thought that was going to be relaxing. Instead it was just hard on the knees.
I wanted a nap, but immediately thereafter it was time to hightail it to the middle of the city for a meet-up with the Iai Private Girls' School English Club. Nearly half the HIF students were coming on invitation. Why? One word: barbeque. They beckoned us with the promise of barbeque (like, I mean, a real one, not crazy Japanese mayonaise corn fish-sausage soy sauce with a heaping side of rice or whatever barbeque) and we obeyed. The head of the club was the school's English teacher, an American and a Methodist missionary. Some of the more secular among us squirmed a bit when she told us that, but she was extremely nice and all around not crazy. The brats were delicious by the way. Oh god. Brats. With ketchup. And proper buns. And chips. And salsa.
I never eat brats back at home, by the way. Or hamburgers. Guess which are my two new favorite foods after a month of delicious but very-not-familiar Japanese cooking?
We tried to speak English with the very nervous, very shy high school girls, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Generally we'd say something in English, they'd stare at us in terror, and we'd say the same thing more simply in Japanese at which point they all nodded and responded in Japanese with relief. Hey, I definitely don't blame them. I'm sure I still stare in terror whenever some stranger says something to me in Japanese too. At least when I'm sober.
Drunk, though, is a different story. Lemme tell you about our next sequential Goryoukaku excursion. We were planning on hitting a particular club that had caught our interest with the promise of dancing that hadn't been open on Friday, but when we all met up, it was still preparing, so Lawson it was then.
By the by, one of the more confident but, shall we say, less culturally sensitive students I've made friends with (he speaks Albanian, a language I've been learning, and he goes to the UW, in a weird enough pair of coincidences) has been worrying his mother sick going out every night drinking, but has been learning plenty of very useful street Japanese. I technically speak better Japanese than him, and I can read more than he can, but his confidence renders all of that totally moot. He completely bests me. So this guy immediately approaches a pack of Japanese hipsters hanging on a streetcorner when we find out the club isn't ready yet and starts up a conversation with them.
The Japanese seem generally nervous and reticent until you let them know you can at least sorta speak Japanese. Thereafter they're quite friendly and open. Fully aware of all this, I still can't just approach Japanese people, usually. But the fruits of this guy's confidence was an evening of hanging out with some really cool, really coarse Japanese ruffians getting very, very drunk.
Us gaijin and these guys merged into one big group and intermingled in frenzied conversations of broken English and Japanese. It was probably a scary sight for the passersby, but we were harmlessly entertained. I heard my first real rolled R from one of the particularly macho members of the pack and had a strange, very hilarious conversation about bisexuality with another one.
I had to call it an evening early before we could even get into the bar because a friend got sick and I had to help her home, but still, I'd chalk Saturday up to a success.
Sunday was homework. Forget that. Monday was awesomely super psycho-go-nuts scrumptuous, but I'll save that for tomorrow's post. Till later.