English Japan Middle School Saroma travel

Life, Snow and Finns

It’s been snowing here as life is taking hold of me once again.  An update is daunting yet necessary if this blog is to continue and I figure it should.  I was talking to John, the ALT in Kamiyubetsu about blogging this week (his blog is linked to at the right in the blogroll) and I was musing that I simply didn’t have any more piercing observations about Japan at this point.  I’ve been here for a year and almost a half and there are still things I love and things I hate, but they’re kind of just part of the days that go by.  I’ve been less than excited to write about the same old things, making observations that I’m not particularly qualified to make.

However, this morning is one of those lit by the extraordinary power of new snow, the kind that breathes fresh energy into old attitudes and makes an ordinary living room seem like home.  I’ve also got a lot to talk about.  Last night Dad asked me what was new in my life, and I had to think for a while before answering:

2:09 AM I had two guys from Finland stay with me and they sang folk songs in my junior high classes. That was pretty cool.

  I’m on a Curling team…

2:10 AM As well as part of a tone-chime orchestra.

  I saw two of my 1st grade elementary students at the hot springs yesterday and they were very happy to see their naked English teacher.

  Lots of random things going on in life here – slowly still settling in.

2:11 AM Rearranged my whole house this week.

2:12 AM Had a friend of a friend Japanese girl who was born in the town next to Saroma but went to college in North Dakota and is working in NYC visit for the weekend. She did all of my dishes – like a months worth.

Add to that that I had completely forgotten that it was Thanksgiving, and I guess my life is more interesting than I thought.  Now, some of these things deserve their own post, but I’m going to toss in just one of the more interesting ones here.

Through Couchsurfing, two guys from Finland, Ilkka and Petri visited Saroma.  They had come up from Honshu on rail passes, and after stopping in Hakodate and Muroran, tried to make it to Saroma by train in a day from Muroran.  They didn’t manage that, and after a drunken and sleepless night in Sapporo they showed up here two weeks ago after hitchhiking from Engaru station, about 35km away.  I easily spotted them on the sidewalk near the shrine as I returned from Wakasa Elementary, and then took the afternoon off to show them around town.  They were the funniest guys.  They had met in the Finnish military and were travelling together through Japan as part of individual trips around Asia.  Their English proficiency was nothing short of brilliant and astonishing.  They were big fans of Conan O’Brien, and the Flight of the Conchords.  They were travelling with a mini-guitar and bongo drums, making music and folding winged-hearts out of origami for girls on the street.  Ilkka, 196cm (6’5″) said that he had fallen in love more times than he could count.  Petri loved making parody commercials for Japanese drinks – CC Lemon, Asahi Super Dry, Pocari Sweat, Green Tea.  All involved and huge swig with a brazen arm-wipe followed by a scream to show the power of the drink.  Basically like every Japanese drink commercial.  They stayed for two nights.  The first night we went to Kaiko, the best restaurant in town, and had sashimi and scallops and various good stuff.  The next day, they recovered from their Sapporo debauchery and wandered around town.  I came home to find them snacking on supermarket sushi and drinking directly from a 3L can of Asahi Beer.

Finns 1

A few hours and drinks later I went and bought another 3L aluminum flagon, and we had a great time.  Finland sounds kind of amazing.  Finnish music also rocks – I wish I had remembered to grab some from Ilkka’s iPod.  The last day was probably the best, and for them, apparently one of the best of their trip.  They came into two classes at Saroma Junior High, a third grade class (9th graders) and a second grade class (8th graders).  Both were fun, but the second graders’ attitude really stood out.  I’m actually quite proud of those students.  They showed a genuine interest in two people from another country and culture, asked great questions, and I hope took something away from the experience.  Ilkka and Petri had a short conversation in Finnish for us, which was awesome, particularly when the realization set in with the students that they really were speaking an entirely different language that Sean-sensei couldn’t understand.  I think it really sent the message that English as a world language is extremely powerful and perhaps worth their study.  The funniest moment in class for me, though, was when they performed their rendition of “Albi, the Racist Dragon” by Flight of the Conchords.  I thought perhaps a song about racism wasn’t appopriate for class, but it has a moral ending and sounds very very innocent and funny as a song, with lots of weird voices and harmonies.  Alas, immediately after class I had to take the guys to Engaru station to catch the 11:16 express to Sapporo.  They’re currently somewhere in southern Japan, having more adventures.  Of course I am jealous of their travel, but thanks to couchsurfing, I was able to feel the travel spirit again, and enhance the experience of fellow travelers, showing them a place that they would never have considered worth their while, and myself gaining new friends and a much more interesting week at work.

Finns 2

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