Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The weekend that followed turned out to be an unexpectedly eventful one--on Saturday a Welcome to Akita dance party in Honjo, to our south, gave me the opportunity to talk to chat again with other JETs--and a surprising number of ex-JET lifers still working in Japan. One of these characters, Patrick, was so enthusiastic as to have made audible  progress towards mastering Akita dialect  (his study tip: buying beers for the oldest and crustiest looking characters in the local watering holes and drinking till his new friends started to make sense!) All the same, I wasn't really feeling the party atmosphere- but the fact that I was county-seat judge sober all night gave me an unexpected opportunity to begin my driving experience in Japan the next morning, as Kenny, never the type to miss a party, designated me to drive us home early the next day ("just to be on the safe side") As a consequence, the first time I drove internationally ended up being  with an unfamiliar, borrowed car with a manual transmission, on unfamiliar, left-side drive roads, after a bad night's sleep, with two hung over friends in the passenger seats. Talk about jumping in the deep end-but, a bit uncertain or no (though, actually worse than the  driving itself was the fact that I kept putting on the misplaced  windshield wipers to signal lane changes)  I managed to get us home without incident,  and with plenty of time for our big stage debut with the Higashi Middle PTA choir. Our performance was to be the finale of the annual school festival , held this year in the Oga City municipal performance hall.

  We were preceded onstage by Higashi middle school brass band, and choirs assembled from members of every individual class (1 – 1, 2–1, etc.) and conducted– a bit shakily-- by selected student representatives. I was more impressed by the accompanists, likewise classmates of the choir members.

As for the singing itself-- well, it went better than I expected. The ALT section stood out from the rest of the choir not only for our impeccable pronunciation, but unfortunately also for our only shaky command of words and tune.  Kenny managed to upstage all of us with a spontaneous outburst of operatic gesturing that drew a second round of applause when we reentered the auditorium-- and the priest had me nearly in stitches onstage when his soulful solo part was compromised slightly by his unfortunate tendency to substitute W for R Elmer Fudd style. ("We are the childwen!") The video, which we watched at least twice at the after-performance enkai that naturally followed, is amazing. I hope it will end up on YouTube, despite the 50ish cameraman's suspicion of the Internet... This time, the enkai test of foreigner resilience to delicacies was sazae, a turban snail (and namesake of the famed long-running manga franchise Sazae-san). They won't kill you to eat them, these turban snails, but I won't be reaching for them in the grocery any time soon-- they taste like crunchy rubber, with an unnervingly strong  iodine aftertaste that doesn't really go away until you brush your teeth for bed.  But I got brownie points for ingesting 'em, and it all gave me a chance to work a room for fun and networking  once again... More later!


  1. Yes, I remember switching out the wind-screen wiper control with the turn-indicator control as well the first time we drove in Australia. We got used to it, though. The first time back in the States, we did it all over again.

  2. I was more surprised that putting the gear shift on the 'wrong' side was comparatively less irritating than the wipers! Finding the appropriate lane position was a bit of an adventure, too.