As December marches onward with no stop, the days of shopping dwindle and people have less of a chance of getting the present they really wanted to give someone. There is an odd feeling I get from Christmas season in Japan. In some ways it's a part of home reaching out to me from the other side of the world. On the other hand I wonder how Christmas tradition was even perpetuated throughout Japan. Here in the valleys of the Shikoku mountains I still see Christmas lights on display. They are scattered about the hills and houses. Strung along roads and bridges in the most uncanny spots. It is a surreal feeling to realize that the holiday has been absorbed into Japanese society and people emulate the fundamental elements like perfect clones. Christmas in Japan has roughly only existed 50 or 60 years. How weird would it be to one day decide to adopt all the traditions and practices of the Chinese year and call it the American New Year. Flat out bizarre. Same kind of feeling I get with Christmas here.
The past week we had our mid year conference for teachers in the prefecture. Over a hundred of us inexperienced and lost souls descended to the prefectural education center to be enlightened and reflect on what we are doing. All I remember from now is that I made a chant about liking waffles or something. The rest has faded as quickly as it first came. It must have been a huge success for the lady organizing it, though, because she was moved to tears by our accomplishments over the three days at the conference. She lauded us for being the best prefecture in Japan as she tried to hide behind a tall Australian, choking back some tearful eyes. You can probably hear the awwwws coming out of the text as you read this. While not the most worthwhile event in my life it wouldn't be fair to say it was a waste of time either. I had some pleasant conversations about maggot therapy and MRSA infections. I never discount those worthwhile topics.
I made a pizza that was better than any before. Maybe it's the pan. Maybe it's the new scale. Who knows. It was good. I hope I can win the hearts of Yoko's family at the end of the month. If I don't they may never let me come back to Nagano.
The kind, well I should say odd, guy I befriended who works at the local sightseeing bureau invited me to an event on Sunday. Such events are small and local so I wouldn't know about them otherwise. That is unless I read the sightseeing webpage which lists such things but I can't be forced to read that consistently. Plus, if I were to show up to this kind of event by myself everyone would be telling me how to get back home because I would surely be lost. I showed up and stood around for several minutes looking like I had been born a black sheep. I was then rescued by some charismatic woman that called out my name. She is the co-worker of the guy that invited me and they had been waiting for me to show up. Needless to say I was thankful to be pulled into the hands of someone with vague relation. What unfolded was an onslaught of jokes and misdirection in the most Japanese of ways. From telling lies about girlfriends and age to poking fun of losing money in an Australian casino, the field was abundant with banter and playful talk. Most of this was directed by that lady I had met. Probably one of the most playful and bold Japanese women I have met. When I say playful I mean someone who can make jokes and be sarcastic. This tends to be a rarity in Japan methinks. It increasingly came to my attention that her awareness of English vocabulary was especially fine tuned. To amuse myself I began to use random English words to test her acuity. Much to my surprise her comprehension level was impressive. There is no telling where she picked it up but she swore she was terrible at English. That's fine. Sometimes Japanese women who speak English are just out to capture a foreigner and lock them in a chicken coop in a remote mountain valley. As long as she swears the opposite I feel mildly safe. I'll keep an eye open.
No pictures because my hands were full of food or dirty. It's about time you had an imagination exercise anyway.
A plethora of other random things transpired but catch me later for those. I do have one word of wisdom. If they tell you not to cut yourself while stripping grass for paper making, don't cut yourself because you get blood over the grass and everyone hates you. Well I'll maintain it was the knife that moved and not me.