It's been very quiet at school since the kids are studying for exams, but Christine and I managed to hold the first English club meeting (kick-started with learning the Gay Gordons!), and I've really enjoyed teaching junior high. Right now they're working on speeches about their future careers. Not a single kid aspires to be a J-Pop star or a movie celebrity it seems - most of them dream of being pharmacists or doctors, with a smattering of future policemen, teachers, travel agents, and nurses in there too. One boy wrote "My dream is to be a government office worker because I will have a nice stable income." No one can say they're not pragmatic.
It's also been quite a British week - I spent one evening watching the recent BBC Richard II with two fellow Shakespeare geeks.
"My native English, now I must forego:
And now my tongue's use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol, or a harp;
Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up,
Or, being open, put into his hands
That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
Within my mouth you have engaol'd my tongue,
Doubly porcullis'd with my teeth and lips;
And dull, unfeeling, barren ignorance
Is made my gaoler to attend on me."
I feel ya bro.
Last weekend was also pretty packed. After work on Friday I headed up to Aoshima, just outside Miyazaki City, with another ALT, for another beach barbecue camp. The wind had a nip for the first time, which was happily offset with umeshu, meat platters and guitars around the fires. It seems that in Japan you can pretty much camp where you like, and our tents were set up on the little strip of green here - although some opted to rough it out on the boardwalk in sleeping bags.
The next morning we were up bright and early. As I opened my tent bleary-eyed, surfers already bobbed about in the bay like seals.
After some makeshift breakfast, we headed along the beach to visit Aoshima Island.
The rock formations are known as Oni no Sentakuita, or 'devil's washboard.'
This shrine was nestled in the middle of lush palms and creepers.
Off to the side was another, smaller shrine along a path leading to the heart of the island. It was incredibly peaceful listening to the waves crash on all sides from within a jungle.
Here visitors throw clay disks at the smaller shrine for good luck.
For about 60p you can find out your fortune. Apparently this signifies good love!
After playing in the sun for a while, we packed up and started thinking about heading off, only to be confronted by my first angry Japanese experience. A scary man zoomed up to us as we packed up a car, nearly running over someone's foot, parking us in and demanding a hundred dollars. While most people headed into the nearby hotel to talk things over reasonably, my ride and I panicked, squeezed the car through a tiny gap in the trees onto the beach, and drove along the decidedly non-vehicle-sized path in the first picture, smiling maniacally at confused sunbathers as if we knew what we were doing.
Eventually we escaped via a back alley and made a hasty exit.
Next stop was a post-apocalyptic beach accessed via a forest and the bumpiest road I've ever traversed.
While my chum surfed I gave up worrying he might drown in favour of napping and trying on his various hats.
The woods were gorgeous.
There was even a St Andrews beer! Needless to say, this was my poison of choice for the night.
I also picked up some sweet recommendations for samurai movies and shrines in Kyoto from my teammate Shigeo.
Our team name was his suggestion...
Much to our collective disbelief, our team won second prize! Our considerable swag included a bottle of umeshu, a bottle of shochu, liqueur, cooking sauces, some yogurt, green tea, and a box of meat.
I'm finishing this post as the wind howls outside, praying that the typhoon approaching southern Japan will diverge - at least until I'm safely in Osaka.