Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Update 1: The Holidays

No one would ever accuse me of neglecting this blog. Although the past couple months have been heavy with movie reviews and book reviews, and I've not really given any news on my life or developments on the job front since my last update a couple ago months now.

Information has been changing so fast, and it has become difficult to separate facts from rumors, so I wanted to wait until things had sorted themselves out before writing a post. Otherwise whatever I wrote I would have had to correct in a week.
As it is there are still a few loose ends that have yet to be tied up (isn't that life?) but I think enough has developed that I can make a post on it.

But before I get into all the messy details about my job and the employment situation, I thought I'd give an update on what I've been up to socially the past couple months. I'll start with The Holidays

I suppose you've been wondering, aside from posting this video, what was I up to for Christmas?
A few days before Christmas a couple friends from Fukuoka came down to visit us. (They were both people who used to work with us in the Nakatsu branch, but transferred to Fukuoka). Shoko and I put up one of them in my apartment. While they were in town we called the whole gang together and went out a couple nights. They viewed this as the start of their Christmas celebrations, so I'm including it in mine.

Christmas Day Shoko had to work (Christmas being a normal working day in Japan). But I went into Fukuoka city where my same friends were holding a bit of an ex-pat Christmas party. It was the standard mix of cultures. There was the British, Americans, Canadians, Chinese and Japanese. We enjoyed traditional British Figgy pudding alongside the infamous Japanese kurisumasu Keeki. And we took turns wearing the Santa hat.

For New Year's eve Shoko and I went for dinner at her mother's house (who I had only met once before). I was hoping to meet her younger brother, but he was out with friends that night. I guess I'll have to meet him another day. (It is strange that I've never met Shoko's brother given the fact that we've been dating for 4 years, and are now engaged. Especially considering he lives only one town over. I am curious to see what he is like, but I've determined to wait for the invitation to come to me, and Shoko seems to be in no hurry )
We had a quiet dinner with just the three of us. Shoko's mother grilled me on what my plans for the future were while we watched the traditional Kohaku Uta Gassen.

Around midnight we went to the local Buddhist temple to ring the bell and welcome in the new year. The same priest who had opened up his temple for us to teach English lessons in invited us over for the ringing of the bell ceremony. All of my co-worker were invited, but only Shoko and I ended up coming.

This is a traditional part of Japanese culture I've somehow managed to miss out on all these years. Much of the time I've managed to be back home during New Years. There were two previous times I spent New Years in Japan. One time I just partied with other foreigners. And one time I was invited for a brief homestay into a Japanese house, which was very nice, but we never made it to the temple. We just watched Kohaku Uta Gassen and then everyone went to bed.

So, I was excited to go to the temple for the bell ringing. Although it was a bit anti-climatic. All we did really was ring the Bell. Apparently Buddhist temples are supposed to ring the bell 108 times to remind us of our 108 wordly desires, but the priest told us he had stopped trying to keep track years ago. It just took too much effort to count all the bells.

I waited in line, and then rang the bell once. Then Shoko told me I was ringing it wrong, so I gave it another hit. Then Shoko told me I had to wait for the sound of the first ring to fade away before I hit it again, but unfortunately all I heard of this sentence was "hit it again". So I did. At this point the priest came running over to tell me I had to wait for the sound to fade between rings.
So I screwed up yet another Japanese ceremony. But fortunately no one expects to much from us foriegners, and the priest was laughing as he corrected me.

After all the other people had gone and left, the priest invited Shoko and I to a New Year's Eve party with his family.

His children were all home from school during winter break. He and his wife have four children between the ages of 19 and 25, and there all just delightful people. Shoko and I had a great time talking to them, and it was one of those nights where the time just flew. We looked at our watches, and all of a sudden it was 6 in the morning. Once we realized what time it was, we quickly gave our good-byes, and went back to our apartment to try and get some sleep.

The three days following New Year's day in Japan are all holidays traditionally spent with ones family. Shoko went back to her mother's house to spend the holiday, so I made plans with my friend in Fukuoka to do some hiking.

I was at his house for 3 days, and in the end only one of those ended up being a hiking day. We had all the best intentions of putting in 3 good days of hiking, but in the end we succumbed to the luxury of the big city. We went to Starbucks and browsed through English bookstores (where I spent money I didn't have on books I probably don't need. But, hey, it's the holidays). We watched a couple videos at his place. All in all it was relaxing, if not the hiking adventure we had originally planned.

Okay, that's all for this update. Next time I'll try and tackle some odds and ends.

Link of the Day
Despite Failure To Meet Bush's Original Goals, McCain And Lieberman Declare "The Surge Worked"

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