Thursday, August 2, 2007

Yet Another Typhoon and Other Thoughts...

I'm not sure what this one's number (or name) is. It's over Kyushu now, heading this way. My first inkling another typhoon was coming was courtesy an overheard conversation between the other teacher and one of her students this afternoon. My soon-to-be ex-coworker is flying out Saturday from Narita and she and the student shared some concern about whether or not the typhoon would be raging around the airport that day.

Sure, I could go do some research about it and find out some hard data, but it's 11pm and I'm very sleepy. Right now it's raining outside. The traffic sounds change when the street gets wet, from engine noises and squeaking wheels to a rising hiss that peaks just outside my apartment then dies away as the car passes. If I wake to that sound, I know it rained overnight.

I'm approaching my last couple of days in Sanaru-dai. My packing is about 85% complete; a rough estimate but accurate enough. Tomorrow and Saturday I'll finish that last 15% and do a little light cleaning. My boss has leased this apartment for about 12 years now, so he's already kissed the key money goodbye.

In fact, he's so confident the landlord is going to screw him, he told me not to bother cleaning the place. That surprised me, because he's a stickler for doing things the right way.

Still, because I consider myself an ambassador without portfolio for my country, I'll clean up the most obvious messes.

Today I realized even if I wasn't changing places this weekend, I'd have to eventually anyway. This place is just about worn out. As I've probably written, the floors are getting soft and there are problems with the kitchen sink drain and toilet. The multiple floods down through the ceiling from my upstairs neighbors probably haven't done much to help its condition, either.

I have a feeling there's rot and mold within the walls, maybe even in the load-bearing beams and studs. Those soft places in the floor are probably where the plywood has rotted out and fallen away.

Oh, and let's not forget the roaches. Japan is a haven for cockroaches ("gokiburi" in Japanese), and during the musty, damp rainy season they come swarming. Well, not swarming unless you're absolutely filthy. They come in ones and twos in a steady stream over the course of a few days. In my old Athens apartment, I probably killed 3 or 4 total over the course of 6 years. That's one month's bag here in Japan. You can kill that many on a bad day.

Still, I'll miss this place. It's at least as large as that old Athens apartment, and since the two idiots upstairs moved out and were replaced by a pleasant married couple, the noise levels have dropped to something very tolerable. Especially when the noise is merely the sounds of children playing.

The trees are full of loudly buzzing cicadas, like a constant electric spark. Crows feast on them, causing the buzz to rise in pitch, becoming shrill. Almost a shriek. Sometimes their bulky green bodies lie on the sidewalk, looking remarkably whole but no less dead.

A day in Sanaru-dai is like this: Schoolkids wearing yellow plastic helmets run along the sidewalk shouting "Hayaku!" while seniors read in the air conditioned coolness of the community center, preschool teachers push carts with the bobbing heads of little kids peering over the sides, Cafe Arcadia opens daily to no customers, the old woman at the Irino liquor store down the road sweeps the walk in front of her shop... and across from her fire engine red Ferraris gleam menacingly in their showroom window, gazing out on the street where they're eager to race.

But now it's night, a rainy night and my kitchen sink is bubbling.

Tomorrow is my co-worker's farewell party. All week she's been receiving presents. I have this feeling everyone wishes I were the one leaving. Paranoia on my part. They don't actually wish me gone, it's just that if given the choice they'd keep her and send me packing. And who could blame them?

My boss laid in a supply of beer for the party. I haven't had a drink of alcohol in months, not since I last went to Tengu during the Hamamatsu Matsuri and accidentally ordered some green tea cocktail instead of plain green tea with ice. People here tend to expect me specifically (or maybe just Westerners in general) to be some kind of lush.

A student actually told me a few weeks ago that she thinks Japanese people don't drink as much as Westerners do. I beg to differ, baby. Townies and students in Athens may drink more per capita, but Japan is a boozing country. It's part of work culture here. Smoking and drinking. Drinking and smoking. So when I tell them I don't really drink, their eyes go wide and they say, "Eeeehhhh??!!"

Which is Japanese for "What the hell?" among other things.

A month later and the same people ask me how much I drink.

If I have one major pet peeve about living in Japan, it's that- no matter how many times I tell people I'm not a drinker, they either forget or just refuse to believe me. I get annoyed having to explain this.

I'm hoping my boss orders pizza. Really good pizza is hard to come by here in Hamamatsu. There are places to get adequate pizza, but with the closing of Pizza Patio in nearby Toyohashi, the nearest good pizza is probably in Tokyo. But my boss gets some decent stuff from a delivery company.

If you're in Hamamatsu, I also recommend the self-serve slice cart at the Entetsu supermarkets. Their pizza tastes a little like Papa John's. While you can certainly get better pizza than Papa John's at various mom-and-pop pizzerias, as far as delivery goes that's my favorite. I've given up ever finding the equal of classic East Albany Gargano's pizza, from back in the day when the Garganos actually operated the place. DaVinci's in Athens had a thin crust pizza that came close, but that place has gone the way of Pizza Patio.

So your best bet is probably Entetsu. It's cheaper than delivery. You'll pay around $30 for delivery pizza here.

One of our students, an older businessman, just came back from one of his frequent pleasure trips to other parts of Asia. This time, it was South Korea. When Japanese people travel, they usually bring back "souvenirs" for their co-workers and friends, food of some sort characteristic of wherever it is they visited. Mr. Businessman brought back Korean seaweed snacks.

And they are delicious. Salty and oily, with a taste a bit like popcorn. Only concentrated in these thin, metallic green slices with holes in them. They melt in your mouth. I'm addicted.

Okay, I'm rambling. And now it's bedtime.


Nenena said...

Good luck with your move!

I'm flying back to the States to visit my folks tomorrow, and praying that the weather doesn't screw me over. I'm flying out of Nagoya, though, so it should be okay.

I'm so glad that I live in the mountains where there are no cockroaches. We get the giant wasps and spiders, though. There's a spiderweb on the side of my house right now that is as wide as my car. Actually, slightly wider.

Joel Bryan said...

Thanks! I hope you had a safe flight and an enjoyable visit back home.