Archive for category The Penpal

October 10, 2006 – Overtime day

Today, by request from management, I worked a rare overtime shift. I really value my 2 day weekend, but this was an early shift and it’s hard to turn down extra money right before I’m move back to Canada.

Work was busy but not terribly difficult. I was fighting a bit of a cold, so my voice was starting to disappear by the end of the day.

After work I went out for dinner with The Penpal and one of her church friends, who is quite possibly the friendliest person in the whole world. Even though I gave up half of my weekend, my day didn’t turn out too badly!

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October 9, 2006 – Shinto shrine Bingo!

There are around 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan ranging in size from massive structures like Mishima Taisha down to tiny miniature shrines on the side of the road. The Penpal has a neighbourhood shrine near her house, and today I was invited to the annual festival where her father volunteers.

The neighbourhood shrine was small, but was surrounded by a large courtyard where I found the usual stalls that are found at festivals around the country: yakisoba, yakitori, takoyaki, and some treats for the kids. As I was filling myself full of delicious yakitori, I started to notice that I was the ONLY person at the festival who wasn’t Japanese. Many of the people seemed surprised to see a gaijin at the neighbourhood festival. Even after 3 years in Japan, it’s still fun to surprise people by eating with chopsticks or speaking Japanese, both things that aren’t normally expected from a foreigner.

In addition to the food, there was also a free bingo game with lots of prizes. As people got bingo, they got to choose a prize from the prize table. Eventually it was my turn to get a bingo, and I proudly walked to the prize table at the front of the crowd, smiling as people stared at me. I chose a badminton set, which was probably not ideal considering that I’m moving back to Canada in about a month.

In the evening I got to enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal at The Penpal’s house, a treat for someone who eats convenience store and pub food far too often. After dinner, I was shown the family photo album including pictures of The Penpal as a kid. Japanese people as a rule don’t smile for pictures, but The Penpal took that a step further looking positively annoyed at having her picture taken.

When we had embarrassed my fiancee thoroughly, the Penpal and her mother went to wash the dishes. What came next was the highlight of the evening: I was watching TV with The Penpal’s father, my future father-in-law, when he handed me the remote control for the TV. I think this means that I am now officially accepted into the family! Hooray!

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October 1, 2006 – Speech contest

Today I attended the annual English / Japanese speech contest at Numazu library. The event was hosted by NICE – Numazu Association for International Communication and Exchanges. The Penpal is a member of NICE, so I went along to check it out.

When I learned about the contest a few months ago, I had given some thought to entering. The demand was much greater than the supply – 24 people tried to enter but only 10 Japanese speeches were presented. There were also 10 English speeches by Japanese residents. My favourite speeches were about the differences in communication styles between Japanese and American housewives, and an elderly Japanese man’s scorching rant about those annoying teens in sweatpants who hang out in front of convenience stores.

I really admire the courage shown by everyone who made a speech: public speaking makes a lot of people nervous, nevermind public speaking in your second language.

I overslept before the contest and didn’t have any time to eat before I got there. By the end of 20 speeches I was STARVING. On my way home I stopped at the new donair food truck in front of Don Kihote. If you’ve never eaten a donair, you are truly missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

When I got home I received an invite from the Penpal to come over for dinner. I was still full from my late lunch, but I never, EVER refuse homemade curry. Yum!

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September 17, 2006 – Piano Recital year 3

For the 3rd year in a row I went to The Penpal’s piano recital. As usual, she was fantastic, making difficult pieces look easy.

The star of the show was the 3 year old boy who played first. When he got to the middle of the stage and saw the crowd his expression was hilarious! He needed a special chair and booster pedals, but he played a simple song well.

Yes, 3 year olds play piano better than I do.

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August 21, 2006 – Working overtime

A few days ago, my area manager came to my branch and asked very nicely for me and another teacher to work overtime today.

When I first started at NOVA, there were overtime shifts available regularly, especially in the bigger cities. In the past year, overtime has become rare in an effort to cut costs, resulting in cancelled lessons for students. I was asked to pick up an extra shift because there were only 2 teachers available, which wouldn’t cover the schedule at all.

I don’t like giving up my days off, but I do like making some extra money. Not only that, but my OT shift was an early shift which made for an easy day of teaching English. After work I got some food and played Mario Party with The Penpal. Best overtime day ever!

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August 20, 2006 – Like part of the family

Recently the Penpal’s family bought a new house, just down the street from the house where they have lived for over 20 years. Today I went over to help with their move.

Some of the Penpal’s relatives were helping as well. I got to meet an aunt, uncle, and cousin that I hadn’t met before. They had spent a few years living in the United States, so they could speak a bit of English. They also told the Penpal’s parents about how nice Canada was. The parents have been worried about their only daughter moving away to a strange, frozen country, so it was nice to have some extended family who could put in a word on our behalf.

I helped move boxes, trimming the giant hedge in front of the house, and then while The Penpal and her mother cooked dinner I spent about an hour chatting with her father. Somehow we managed to keep the conversation going the whole time. The whole day felt like I was becoming part of the family.

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August 9, 2006 – Final Fantasy 3 (or 6)

The Penpal came over after work tonight for an evening of video games. We are still working our way through Final Fantasy 3, which is known as Final Fantasy 6 in Japan. I still don’t understand why some games in a popular series are never officially released in North America.

I have good memories of this game – I got it for Christmas in 1995 and spent my entire Christmas holiday grinding my way through the game.

The Penpal didn’t have a game system growing up, so she had to get her Nintendo fix at friends’ houses. I’m helping her make up for lost time. I can’t think of too many better ways to spend an evening!

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