Friday, February 19, 2010

Fight For Your Right (To Party)

Monday, November 5, 1990

I’m up at 7:15AM. It’s an office day at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) offices. I’ve been here for three months and I’ve got a routine going. I don’t have to do any real work at the OBOE, so I prepare all of my writing for the Tatami Times—the monthly newsletter for the Tochigi-ken AETs (Assisitant English Teachers). Hey, where do you think I first got the idea for a It’s A Wonderful Rife column. It was reasonably popular and I know I had it published in three OTHER prefectures (provinces) besides Tochigi-ken—plus in another English-language magazine in Tochigi-ken’s capital city of Utsonomiya. But that’s later.
Back to the now that is then.
At 5PM, I leave work. Did you know that in Japan the average Japanese worker NEVER leaves his place of work until his boss does? To do so shows a lack of commitment and means a loss of face—two no-no’s in Japanese society.
Me, not being Japanese, I leave at 4PM (an hour early), though I usually wait until 5PM or when Hanazaki-san says it’s okay for me to leave. I am in their country… I don’t want to spit on social customs too much.
Leaving the OBOE, I post my Tatami Times stuff to current editor Gasoline (Catherine Komlodi), and then head over to the bank and its ATM machine. Walking past, I notice Mayor Sembo waving at me and I reciprocate. No hangover for us!
At home, there’s a letter for me from Ashley’s sister, Kerry. How special. She sounds like a nice girl. She’s asked me to write back. Do I? How did she get my address?
Am I supposed to go to an enkai (party) tonight. Is Ashley coming over top my place? In my mind, it's "No", to both. I’m going shopping.
I’m home at 5:15PM. Kanemaru-san phones. He wants me at the OBOE enkai. Where is it? Kanemaru-san isn’t able to articulate it in English, so he says good-bye. Five minutes later, Matthew phones to say hi. Five minutes after that, my Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Jujnior High School) pain calls, drops the phone and accidentally hangs-up. Five minutes later, Hanazaki-san calls and says he’ll be over shortly to take me to the enkai. Five minutes later he’s at my apartment – and we walk over to a small restaurant where we have a large room all to our office-selves.
I’m exhausted. I tell him on the walk over (For the sake of comedy, it’s a five minute walk) about the Nozaki boy’s phone calls and ask him to make it stop. I haven’t even been to Nozaki yet, and I’m dreading it. Hanazaki-san promises to look into it. Unlike a lot of Westerners, when the Japanese say they will do something, they do it. If they say maybe or suck air through their teeth, it means it probably won’t happen. They don’t say no to a request… just a maybe or a yes.
The party is for the 20th work anniversary of Mrs. Ookubo and Mr. Hashimoto – the car driver (Ookubo-san is to the far right, and Hashimoto-san is to my immediate left). Look at that! It took me three months plus, but I finally know the name of the poor bugger who’s been driving me (and Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san) all over the place on work-related business.
Hashimoto-san says he will give me a bonsai tree (bonsai involves tree bondage to shape a full-sized tree into a dwarf version that fits in a pot). He’s drunk, so I don’t hold much stock in his kind offer. Mr. Mori dances with me, which isn’t as gay as you might think. We’re all drunk and having fun!
I sing karaoke – the Beatles Yesterday, which reminds me that I’m homesick a bit. However, I’m very drunk and manage to blurt out that I am ‘thinking’ of staying a second year in Ohtawara. In case you all forgot, we are offered three one-year contracts… though we don’t have to be offered anything, nor do we have to accept it. I've only been here for three months and I'm thinking about a second year?! Am I nuts or drunk?
Anyhow… I get a standing ovation. Not my idea to upstage the two folks who’s party it is.
I’m really tired and drunk, but it doesn’t stop our party from joining the enkai in the restaurant room next door. Apparently the elementary school I visited one afternoon (can’t remember the school) is having a party for the upcoming retirement of its principal Mr. Fukishima (ko-cho sensei or principal). He speaks English and is a real nice guy, so I agree to come and visit him at his school again on December 14.
Party over, Hashimoto-san, Kanemaru-san and Hanzaki-san and I head over to a sushi place near the middle of town that’s about a five-minute walk from our restaurant.
On the way there, the three of them kept staggering out from the sidewalk onto the road, and I had to keep herding them away from the traffic.
The guys order a butt-load of sake, while I try to stick with beer—as I have vague memories of my last encounter with sake back in August. See BLAARRGH for that story.
Kanemaru-san in his infinite wisdom and drunken state confides with Hanazaki-san that Ashley isn’t as smart as me. He says that while he has an arm around me to prop himself up at the table where we are sitting. Apparently he’s noticed that when we’re at kyudo (Japanese archery) and he’s speaking Japanese, I translate what he is saying into English for her. Hunh. I wonder when I started to understand the lingo? Of course, I do spend an inordinate amount of time talking with anyone and everyone. I guess it was bound to rub off.
Still at the restauranr/bar, Hanzaki-san keeps wanting to fall asleep with sushi in his mouth.
Hashimmoto’s wife arrives, bows at us, slaps her husband on the back of the head and drags his staggering form out to their car.
Kanemaru-san’s wife comes to pick up her husband, bows and slaps the back of his head, hands him a cigarette and helps him to their car. She drove from some function about 40 minutes away to pick him up.
Hanazaki-san and I stagger home. I offer to walk with him to his house first, but he insists he escort me back to my place. I pull him out of the way of an oncoming car and reluctantly agree.
I’m home by 10:30PM and in bed spinning by 11:30PM. I am dead tired, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly tonight. The OBOE are pretty cool people – all of them.
Somewhere holding onto the sides of my futon,
Andrew Joseph

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