Wells, it is nearly the middle of November, and for those readers in NZ this means the end of university for the year, and either a move back home to recommence summer employment, or new and bright things with prospective future employers, or the donning of short shorts and singlets in preparation for three months largely spent on the beach. In Sapporo, it means the nearing of exam period for my senior high students, the purchase of leg and ear warmers and the first turning of the central heating. It also means the occasional pang of homesickness, as Christmas decorations find their way into stores. The prospect of a white Christmas is enduringly odd - everywhere I go I see the kinds of things that the story books tell me I ought to associate with Christmas - mountains covered in snow, green bushes thick with red berries, bare-limbed trees, icicles on window-sills, people rugged up in boots and coats and hats and scarves. In my mind's eye, though, the trees are thick, not with berries, but with flower, the weather is hot, and Santa wears stubbies.
The weather at the moment is truly painful. I was promised drifts of snow-white.... snow, but instead I have been blessed with near constant deluges of rain for the last two weeks. It is miserable. And Sapporo has proved itself Wellington-worthy in terms of wind, and I have been the murderer of many, many 300 yen umbrellas. That said, this has introduced an exciting (kind of) morning activity. It's kind of like counting dead possums on State Highway One, but instead I count the broke-boned corpses of umbrellas, all angles and flailing silver limbs. They're so sad looking. Like gothic baby dear. Or lots of little Kate Moss' in black dresses, after falling off the cat-walk. Hmm, I think I need breakfast. And maybe some old-fashioned NZ sunshine.
But: there is no time for homesickness! As my third-years starts to visibly freak out about entrance exams, I have my hands full marking essays and helping them practice for interview tests ('What was your scariest experience ever, and how did you cope with it?'...........panicked glance..... shortness of breath......'This interview!?") I also had the pleasure, in the last two days, of participating in the Kiyota English Camp, a two-day event during which 40 strong English students join forces with 10 hungover JETs in an effort to speak only English for the entirety of the trip. As this trip revolved around the incorporation of English in all aspects, it became an endeavour on my part to eat as many gummy bears, corn chips, Kettle chips and muffins as possible. I can count my personal success as considerable.
My group consisted of three girls and one boy. The boy was at first the quietest member of the group, perhaps over-awed by the feminine dominance (not that Japanese females are, as a rule, particularly dominating), but quickly came out of his shell, to the point that at the closing song of camp ('We Are The World') he got up, with no encouragement, grabbed a microphone, and performed a shrill solo harmonic role. Very loudly. Inspiring. It's true, we'll make a better place, just you and Daichi.
It was hard yakka, to be sure (Australian, then Irish - I am so multi-cultural these days) - especially at first, when the kids are petrified at the influx of foreigners and seem to forget every English word ever memorized. But these are 15 year olds, powered by gummy bears, and pretty soon inhibition was dropped, at which point it became apparent how much English they really knew, and how dedicated they were. We had black stickers to give out when the exchange of Japanese was witnessed, and I only ended up giving them to myself (I'm so Japanese these days, really...). They even had to put on a play, fully in English, the preparation of which included fight choreography ("Maaaaaad Mariko versus... Yuko the Unyielding!!!!) and the construction of props, which they managed to write, direct and perform without one serious slip. I was barely even necessary, except perhaps as impetus, and as a provider of stickers. (Not that it's important, but my group won the performance competition. MY group. And I got to wear a shiny sequined silver bow. Shame).
Of course, camp wasn't all the dedicated consumption of American food. A significant portion was also dedicated to the consumption of Japanese beer, which we did with gusto. Yes, gusto. Although, at an interesting party, where there was all kinds of interesting types of alcohol ad interesting people, I spent the majority of my night playing coin rugby. Why? I haven't played coin rugby since I was twelve? Anyway, I WON THAT TOO. Clearly on a winning streak. Which then ended when I threw a beer-induced hissy fit when my gaming partner started insisting that it was legitimate and lawful to play English drinking games with Japanese words. Hmph. YOU CANNOT PLAY WORD ASSOCIATION WITH JAPANESE WORDS. Anyway, you can see that the hissy fit endures. Apparently I am a sticker for rules. Though probably only when the breaking of them results in my losing. That said, 'twas probably a good move that I went bedwards when I did (1.30), given that breakfast the next day was at seven, and, my friends, you do not want to miss out on tiny omelettes and tiny sausages for breakfast now, do you? No, you do not.
Far too much coffee was the drug that got me through the rest of that day, that and the high of my group winning. That, and cake.
I write this now from bed on a Saturday morning, with only vague plans to leave this comfortable position at some point. I am bruised from playing volleyball, have a seriously sore stomach (and an entertaining mental picture of myriads of multi-coloured gummy bears lined up in single file all along my large bowel) and heavy eyes. So any deficit in writing skill evident in this blog can be explained away by my many and various handicaps.
But good times are a'coming, my friends, in the form of one Nicole Paterson, less than two weeks away from being en route to my neck of the woods.
Pack some thick socks, Nicole. And perhaps a sturdy umbrella. It's definitely not summer here.