July 21 2001

Subject: long time no talk

Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2001 10:47 PM

Yup, it’s been a while. Sorry about that. Not having a computer at the spacious apartment is a real pain in the butt. Steps are being taken to rectify that as well. Hope you all are well and enjoying this summer, be it at summer fun, or school, or vacation or work.

I squinted into the distance, thru the morning haze and the still leaves. Yup, off in the distance, I could see it. I could see Hell. I had to smile, I wasn’t in Hell, but I sure could see it. The Japanese voice behind me said something and I watched all the other people around me and I copied them as we turned around and faced the building.

It was 0700 on Sunday morning. I was outside the Itoman Youth Center (site of long ago adventures involving bashed chins and stuck playground balls), smelling the stinky air (lots of agriculture in the area, and I think they fertilize with sewage), and sweating. I was wearing my office slippers, swim shorts, and the ever popular Beastie Boys reversible tank top, trying not to hurt those ever so happy people walking around wishing me a happy morning in Japanese. I was not having fun.

The grinning sadist standing on the platform smiled and pressed PLAY on the tape recorder, and away we went, starting our bloody early morning off with some exercises, Japanese style. I had spent the previous six hours trying to sleep in a hot room, shared with five other teachers. They had been drinking at our little teachers’ party, so they slept like the dead. Sadly, I had just eaten (and eaten and EATEN) and thus I was the only one affected by Chainsaw-Sensei. The mats in the room were shaking he was snoring so loudly. A long night indeed. While the drinking party was going on, they had the AC blasting and it was nice and cool. But once bed time came, they turned it up by several degrees and it was hot. During the festivities last night, the teachers started telling ghost stories. One of the teachers, Tree-trunk Sensei, was telling that he’s been visited by a choking ghost so often he asks the ghost, “you again?” One of the other senseis has a friend who can see spirits, and when the friend isn’t in the mood to “see” spirits, she avoids looking at them. Which has caused some of the spirits to chew her out in Hogan (indigenous Okinawan language) for ignoring them!

Now it was early in the morning, a Sunday morning. The exercises were all those bouncy ones that no sane person does. At one point we were smacking our collarbone with the opposite fist in time to the music, switching hands and collarbones in a decreasing number, last one ended with a clap. . What this exercise accomplished was way beyond me. It just sort of hurt.

It was the 2001 International Youth Seminar, day two. Day ones excitement had consisted of me giving a 45 minute keynote lecture on “It’s a small, borderless world”. Wow, 45 minutes of Chris BS. That’s a new record. Some of the students actually listened, as they came up to argue with me about it during dinnertime. I hadn’t volunteered for this wonderful task, rather I was “volunteered”.

Despite the fact that I worked all weekend, I must say I enjoyed the conference. It was held for Okinawan students and a smattering of foreign exchange students (even had a Hawaii girl) and it was worth while. Well worth it. The whole conference made up for the dismal “Chris is trying to cook” experience on the Friday night before. Nachos with taco sauce on saltine crackers (the concept of tortilla chips is totally alien here in Japan).  I did take Monday off and catch up on sleep and laundry and other assorted fun things.

I think it may have cooled down. Or maybe my internal thermometer has melted. My money is on a melted thermometer.  While you are waiting to cross the street, you have to fight people to stand in the shade. I saw this hunched over grandmother beating the snot out of a gang of moped punks who edged her out of the shade. The crowd was chanting and counting the blows. Actually it might have been a desert mirage and wistful thinking, it’s hot out there.

I’m sitting here laughing, as my supervisor is talking to his computer. His screen blanks out, and only works when it’s smacked or it has one of those large black paper clip/clamps clamped on  a certain place. He’s asking it if it wants a vacation, telling it it’s a good computer, he’ll stop working it so hard. It’s really funny. I guess my work here is done, I’ve got Aloha Shirt Summer going and my boss is talking to his computer.

Sometimes, it’s good.

Until later,

Chris

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