Today we had our first language class with J. (yes! that J.!), who had just gotten back from a vacation to New Zealand. (She loved it. And she says that, yes, there are a lot of sheep there.) I hadn’t realized that the kindly older lady who taught us the two previous weeks was a substitute.
At first I was a tiny bit apprehensive, but once we got going, things were great! J.’s an excellent teacher! She was authoritative but accessible, and firm yet funny. I didn’t look at my watch once, except at five minutes to the end after she checked the time herself and started to wrap things up.
So I’m pretty happy about where this is going, but we’ll definitely have to redouble our efforts on the alphabet. Up until recently, F. and I had been doing our lessons with L. with a book written in the medium of English that had the transliterations. Now we’re into a book written in Japanese, which means full-blown kana and kanji (but with kana superscript, of course). As far as that goes, I’m kind of OK with hiragana and kind of lost with katakana (I still have to look at the tables nearly every time, which makes things difficult because the Japanese aren’t exactly shy about adopting English loanwords for modern essential items) – as for the others, one’s really awesome in hiragana but knows no katakana, and the other knows little of either but remembers and uses vocabulary a lot more effectively than I do. In our linguistic journey of a thousand miles, we’ve each taken about a quarter-step, but it’s something. =)
After class, we had lunch at Lotteria, a burger joint under the station. The service was friendly, though the portions were small and condiments nonexistent – if you want ketchup with your fries, you’d better bring your own. My advice: stick with McDonald’s, or, in the bigger cities, go someplace really special. The cheeseburger at Lotteria was really tasty, but kind of small compared to what one might expect if one’s used to North American burger joints. Apparently they’ve been in a price war with McDonald’s – if so, McDonald’s is kicking their butts, as I’ve come to rely on McD’s 100 yen menu many times. Lotteria has a 100 yen hamburger; McD’s has 100 yen hamburgers, cheeseburgers, nuggets, drinks… you name it.
Later in the afternoon, F. arranged for us to meet a fellow we knew through Awa Connection who’d take us up Mt. Bisan. I didn’t know that I’d be doing this today, but it had been something I’d been wanting to do for a while, and today was a good day to do it. We picked a relatively easy trail (“D”) and started up.
The views and flora were amazing. The steps were endless. This was a climb, unlike any I’d experienced before - keep in mind I grew up on PEI, where the highest point (140m) is only about half as high as Mt. Bisan (290m). I also never "climbed" the PEI "peak." At any rate, our legs were quite weak by the time we reached the top.
While up there, we went for a beer in the little restaurant at the ropeway station (Bizan-Sancho) that overlooks the city. Gee, it’d be a fun place at night, too. You could see for miles and miles from up there. And after that, we took a look at the cascading gardens. They’re gorgeous; as always, pictures pending.
And then we went down. I had thought this would be easy. It was only faster. If you’ve never hiked down a mountain before, you don’t know how hard it gets on your shin muscles to keep you upright and keep your decent somewhat controlled. I was very happy indeed to reach level ground.
At the bottom, we discovered we’d lost F., but I guessed that she took an unintended turn where the “C” and “D” trails merged, so I looked at my trail map and started biking towards the bottom of “C.” Sure enough, I met her on the street barely a minute after I left the rest of the group.
We went for coffee, and after that we went our separate ways. The day was a great opportunity to do something spontaneous and fun in good company. Taking it all in on aggregate, it’s advanced my internal dissertations on where I am and where I’m going (and why can I say “where I’m (at)” but not just “where I’m?”), and it’s mostly too self-indulgent to be blogging material. I’ve been trying more to listen and let go, both in class (a student-centred approach is vastly superior to a teacher-centered approach in nearly all cases) and in life (it helps other people foster their feelings of importance). Yes, I’m still as opinionated as ever, but I hope to be able to well inform half or more of my condensed, pithy outlooks. And I’m finding, both in class and in life, that there can be a lot of value in what I chose not to say.
Above all, I’m tremendously relieved to find that I will not feel the way I have recently for the rest of my time here. Like the transition from January to March, the transition from April to December or March will give me time to accumulate experience and make sense of a lot of things. It hasn’t been easy getting into this new school year (art is draining, and junior high math will be a challenge) but I’m starting to see that that just kind of goes with the territory – it’s not just me, which is what I was deathly afraid of, and that feeling made me gaze upon the calendar with a nervous eye.
I’m also throttling back on my concerns about my future. Any conclusions or decisions I’d come to make now would be inadequately informed. It’s best just to wait, and I’ve got lots of time.