The day after the Kyushu trip, I took a day off school to write my first Rotary report and put my photos from the trip on the internet. (They seem to be in rather high demand — everybody’s families back home love seeing pictures of their kids having so much fun here. Having a digicam has been great, because we can take a hundred pictures a day and not worry about paying for it.)

I think I’m lucky to have Nishiyama-sensei as my teacher. He had no problem with my skipping school that day, while I’m sure other teachers at Kaisei aren’t so friendly. Nishiyama-sensei’s famous for it. Not going to school was also a great change to catch up on all the sleep I lost on the trip. Koujirou had told me when I was talking to him on the phone that he had been filing my spot in Jaodori and really wanted me to come back to practice soon so he wouldn’t have to do it anymore. So I did, at about 4:30, show up to school, but only for Jaodori.

On November 30th, I changed host families for the first time. I’m going to have five in total, generally being two month stays everytime. This time, I loved from the Kumazawas in Tomachi (about 10min south of Kaisei by bus) to the Yoshias in Koebarumachi (about 40min or 1hr north!). They’ve got a nice big house in an almost entirely residential area up in the mountains. There are six people in the family – two of every generation. My new host grandmother and grandfather (the Higashis) are the craziest people ever. Obaasan (the grandmother) is always laughing at something, and it’s usually so histerical that she buckles over and falls to the floor. Mind you, I’m sure she’s not even four and a half feet tall, so it’s not much of a fall. Ojiisan (the grandfather) is always in a jolly mood too, but I think he’ slearned from being almost six feet tall that you just can’t fall to the floor every time something tickles your funny bone. My new okaasan and otoosan (mom and dad) seem to be alright, but it’s obvious that they’re much more proper people than the Kumazawas were. They have two kids, so now I have a 13 year old imouto (little sister) and a 15 year old otouto (little brother).

Takashi (the brother) is going to be an exchange student from my club next year, so I’ve seen him around at the orientations before. We found out the same weekend I moved in that he’ll be going to Norway! I think he might have been disappointed, considering his first three choices were America, Canada, and Australia. At least Lars got excited about it! I know Takashi will love it anyway though, if he doesn’t freeze to death first! He thinks it’s cold in Nagasaki now… just wait till he gets up to the equivalent of the Northwest Territories! It’s cool having Tomomi, my new little sister, because she reminds me of Allie. We also have really similar tastes in music, so we like watching all the variety shows together, and she’ll tell me what groups she likes and who she doesn’t. Just lately, they bought a guitar, so she and I have been trying to pick out cords and whatnot, teaching ourselves how to play with the help of otousan and a beginner’s instruction book. My goal is to just learn a few popular cord progressions and pretend to be able to play some songs like Dave Matthews or that one by Yuzu – Mata Aeru Hi Made. It sounds simple enough…

I hear Sara did yogelling in her big presentation to Rotary, which she learned in Switzerland last year. I figure if I want to do something like that, my options right now are bringing the entire Jaodori team home with me, renting a Karaoke machine from Jay’s Musik Shoppe, or now playing a J-Pop song on the guitar. Well, I can play piano too, but I didn’t learn that here in Japan! Oh! Maybe Judo! I can throw Mr. Chandler around a bit :) I’ve still only had two classes so far though. So far I’ve learned how to fall, roll, and throw someone over my shoulder. But I do all three very poorly. Almost everytime Ryouta throws me, I forget to put my arm in such a way that it won’t break when I land! Luckily, he’s not throwing me very hard, so I still haven’t broken anything yet.

At our Christmas orientation back on the first of December, one of the outbounds showed us some really intense karate moves for entertainment, which is what made me think of Judo. Other than that, though, the Christmas orientation wasn’t much of a big deal. We finally got those dishes we made in Imari back in August back, made little speeches in bad Japanese, and had another of those sessions where we filled in some reports and talked about problems like how boring school can be and issues with host families. I think I’m still lucky to have not had as much trouble as others like Timo, Suus, and Janelle, but I really believe it depends entirely on how we look at each situation. Anita tends to play devil’s advocate quite a bit, trying to explain how so many of the problems they’re having come, in large part, from their own attitude in the situation. I don’t know how we’re going to handle that meeting at our next orientation without Anita there to translate what the Rotarians are trying to explain to us. Either the new Aussi will be miraculously fluent in Japanese already, or we’re going to have to get around to really being fluent ourselves (at at least understanding a little more). The Christmas orientation was also Anita’s last — she’s going home on January 8th. What really sucked, though, was on that same Sunday, Anita and Suus had gone to Fukuoka to write their Japanese profficiency tests, so they were only able to make it for about an hour or an hour and a half of the whole orientation. They completely missed the food (That’s when Kaori kept trying to tell me a lump of wasabi the size of a golfball was really sweet and delicious.. but I’m sure it would have been enough to kill any grown person) but at least they got there in time for exchanging presents. It was kind of like secret Santa — we all brought one present for a random person. Then we stood in a circle and passed them around a bit. I brought one of the handmade dreamcatchers I picked up in Market Square before I came and a couple maple lollipops. I think they even went to the firl who’s going to Canada next year. I wish I knew where! It annoys me that when they announced who was going to the states, they named which state before even clearing up that it was the USA, but Canada was just Canada. I wonder if it’s the same with the other guys. To me, not saying which province is like saying “Europe” but not saying which country, because Canada is so huge. But if they left out what state too, it’d make more sense.

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