Tonight we had the “Good Job Third Grade Teachers” party. It was really fun. I sat at a table with my principle, third grade English teacher, and school nurse. All of which speak English from the good to great level. We had a huge feast and I can add two new items to the “odd stuff” that has been in my mouth! The mildly strange entry is noodles made from beans. They were clear and my principle told me their name means “spring rain”. They are very mild in taste, good stuff. And, in what may be the absolute strangest thing I have ever had in my mouth, drum roll please… JELLYFISH! I don’t know what part of the jellyfish I ate, perhaps the stingers because it didn’t look like the bell. It also had a very strong spicy bitter taste that I would think the stingers would taste like. Plus I felt an intense pain in my mouth followed by my tongue swelling up and I had to be rushed to the hospital. Okay that part didn’t happen. But it was bitter and spicy. They were also strangely crunchy (why do I always find this odd stuff strangely crunchy?). I did not care for jellyfish, though I did not not care for it either. It was odd. Here is a complete recap of what we ate:
Fried chicken with bones, tough to eat with chopsticks
Fried chicken pieces in a delicious soy vinegar sauce
Shrimp in a hot and sour sauce
Some kind of oyster/clam in a creamy spinach white sauce (not very good)
Bean noodles in a surprisingly hot meat dish
Sweet and sour pork
A jellied fruit dessert
I am stuffed. Enkai’s are insane in the amount of food that is stuffed in you. My third grade teacher thought I was holding back and said, “Andrew-sensei please be proud that you can eat a lot!” How can you argue with that? So I had me some more gyoza.
At one point my teachers tried to hook me up with the school nurse, I think. They were asking what type of woman I like, and my third grade teacher was kind of elbowing the nurse and giving me the “Ehh? Ehhhh?” look. He told me I should marry a Japanese woman, and gave me more of the “She’s available you know!” look. Then when I told them I was single he was kind of giving her the “Ehh? Ehhh?” look. Then I thought she was kind of hitting on me, or at least they were hitting on me for her via proxy, or something like that. But it is very hard to tell. The Japanese are fairly subtle when they deal with each other’s feelings. They know that foreigners are more open about feelings, so in some respects they go a little overboard. It must be kind of liberating. Add alcohol and you have even more “openness”. It also seems that the “Person A and Person B sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G” type of humor is considered top shelf hilarious. It all adds up to a lot of mixed signals. I am not the only JET that I know that has felt this way, to varying degrees. So who knows.
Enough interpersonal stuff, and let’s talk about, well, more interpersonal stuff. The real highlight of the night was sitting with my Principle. He is an ex-art teacher who spent a few months in America learning about how principles there. He was West Virginia and has fished in the Ohio River (he didn’t catch anything). He is a really interesting guy, whose English is really good. With a little work he could have been an English teacher easily. You can tell he really likes art, particularly foreign art. When my parents met him he talked a lot about Native American art. We mostly just talked about Japan stuff. He taught me a lot of kanji and showed me the general progression from picture to pictograph. He used bird (tori鳥) as an example. He drew a quick sketch of a quall and then evolution of how the head became the triple lines, the body became the double lines, and the feet/claws became the dashes. It was really cool. I have seen it shown in books, but it was interesting to see him do it. He also showed me a lot of interesting kanji and explained some pesky things like why a train station near me is called “Kyobashi” well the Kyo is for Kyoto and the “bashi” is bridge. It is the bridge out of Osaka Castle that is on an old road that leads right to Kyoto. So there you go!
Unfortunately, he is retiring in 14 days. My vice-principle will become my new principle. I am happy for him, but I am sad to see my principle go. The vice-principle has a lot of control over my daily comings and goings. My current vice-principle is very nice and generous in when I can leave, so I am a bit nervous I will end up with someone new that will also be. I guess I will just have to cross that bashi when I come to it.