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I’m falling behind again! This time it wasn’t my fault though. For about the last 3 weeks I’ve been out of commission with mono. Now who have I been kissing, you may ask (it was the first response Laura had). But the thing is, that’s not the way it works in Japan. Mono is something everybody tends to get even before kindergarten, so it turns into something like a 24 hour flu, nothing to worry about (or even notice – nobody understands when I tell them what I had).

When I first got the fever, first of all it was really embarrassing because it really hit me on the train to school, so after the train had been sitting at Hamanomachi waiting for the light to change for about 5 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore and just had to get out. Because anybody who was going to get off at that stop had done so ages ago, the driver wasn’t expecting anybody and closed the door right on me. Nice. Smooth. Anyway I escaped into Hamanomachi and found somewhere to sit. I considered going home to decided to gambaru it and caught the next train to school. I ended up just watching in gym class (having a funny conversation with my gym teacher, him saing I was just playing too much and got myself sick). I was definitely not disappointed when I found out it was only a half day (nobody tells me anything in advance). I went straight home and promptly collapsed into bed, where I spent the next week or so.

My family of course, being Japanese, immediately wanted to take me to the hospital. So on my first day sick in bed, I was dragged out to the hospital. They didn’t even give it a chance to be a 24 hour flu! They decided I had a cold (even though they said I didn’t have a cold and it’s not cold season, but in Japan ever symptom points to a cold) and gave me far too much medication, despite the fact that you can’t cure a cold. One of these meds was actually just to stop another from eating away at the walls of my stomach.

A week later, on my third trip to the doctor’s, they decided that I probably had mononucleosis. I had half-heartedly thought that that was what it was from the very beginning and wasn’t too worried because I know all you can do mono is wait. My host family had no ide awha tI could possibly have, though (other than a cold) and were slightly more worried about it. The absolutely worst bit was that a blood test the doctor took showed that my liver was no enjoying having mono, so they hospitalized me! They upped my medication to unbelievable levels, including an antibiotic drip! For my viral infection! At one point I think I was up to six pills and a mysterious blue power with every meal – for an illness that was no effective treatment! It was horrible!

When it comes to illnesses, I’ve gotten really sick of the way Japanese people react. Why doesn’t anybody believe me when I say you don’t have to go to the hospital if you’ve had a cough for one day? If I say I’ve been sick, the response is always “was it a cold?” No! A cold doesn’t even qualify as an illness!

One of the worst things was that I missed our final orientation, despite haven gotten a lot better. I went to Goto with a 38 degree fever, why couldn’t I go to Imari with 37? At least lots of people visited me and brought me free stuff – tones of books, magazines, MDs, and more food than I could eat. And the nurses were nice.

I would just like to say for a second that I have the worst luck with music equipment. The backlight on my MD is long gone, my headphones are in the trash, and my old behind-the-headphones are cutting in and out on the left side. Plus both CD players (discman and laptop) I have skip horribly! Aaarrghh!

Now I think I’ve written about everything I had to write about as of mid January! Oh, I met those girls from Shougyou Koukou back in January. After Anita left, I went by Chris’s pizza to drop of a bunch of her books for his “library”. There were a couple girls there waiting to interview a friend of Chris’s as an English project, but because he was a no-show, he asked me to fill in. We had a nice chat (made me late for supper) and we even met I think once or twice after that. My friends at school are quite jealous and want me to take them to what is now known as “the pizza place where Greg picked up a couple girls”. Anyway…

Back at the end of January we had out “last” Japanese “class” at Junshin koukou. they basically just took us all bowling. It was pretty fun! I haven’t seen here around in quite a while, but there’s a Mexican woman that was always fun to talk to. Alicia or something (but with a cool Spanish accent).

Speaking of Mexicans, I have to throw in a random quote from Jose: “This tastes… not like chocolate.”

Yes, well, moving on… after bowling we went back to the school and had a bit of a party. (Alicia: “If I get another piece of pizza, will you come get one too? Except here, you take three because you’re young.”) I got a prize for having the highest score (later I got 1000en from my host dad who had bet I wouldn’t break 150) and we all got diplomas. It was fun. Even though they say that was the last class, more casual classes started up again the next week, and once the “teachers” started the next semester at Junshin Daigaku, things went back to the old format. We’re about to wrap up again in a few weeks, though, and this time I think it really will be my last!

Chemistry came in for a concert a while back. They had been my favourite group for a while and I really wanted to get tickets to go. I even convinced Ryouta to shell out the 5000en along with me to see them, but even with five cell phones and a simultaneous trip to Family Mart (I enlisted the help of my entire family) we couldn’t get tickets. The concert sold out in less than 45 minutes! But maybe even worse than that, Moriyama Naotao gave a free concert in the big place by Nagasaki Eki and I forgot to go!!! What an idiot! Ryouta even called to ask what I was doing – I was just with another friend – but didn’t mention that concert until the next day. Anita complained that nobody famous came to Nagasaki when she was here. Now everybody’s coming and I keep missing them! Well anyway, Ryouta said there were so many people at the Eki that you could barely even see Naotaro anyway, and they left before he ever sang Sakura (the piece he’s famous for) because it was just too cramped.

That was just a couple weeks ago, though (or maybe a month ago…). Back to January!

Randomly one day I ended up giving blood. It was one of those rare days when Kura, Ryouta, and I all got to go home at the same time. That naturally means we spend an hour to two mulling around Yuing or Hamanomachi. At the intersection of Hamanomachi, there are always some kids with big signs asking for people to give blood. Stuck with nothing else to do Kura and Ryouta were like “wanna go?” I remember Janelle had said something about how we weren’t allowed to donate blood, so I figured maybe I should call my counsellor. (I told my friends this and I think they thought I was in therapy for a second, but I finally got the right point across). But Kumazawa-san didn’t answer his phone, so I just went with permission from my host mom. Getting through that big list of questions was tough in Japanese! We eventually did it though, after extensive use of my dictionary. The nurse thought it was quite fun that a gaijin had come in to donate. In the end Kura couldn’t because he had some kind of (probably pointless) cold medication the day before. Ryouta and I did. Because I’m 18, I got to donate 400 mL if I wanted, which the guys thought was pretty brave, like I would die from losing that much or something. (I looked it up later and the standard in Canada is about 500 mL!) And of course we got free juice, which is always worth loosing a little bloo.

(Random pet peeve: in Japanese “juice” covers almost all drinks except tea, coffee, milk or beer. Even pop is juice!)

I think February 2nd deserves some kind of award for Busiest Day Ever. First of all, it was moving day, which menat I had to pack all my bags into the family car bright and early in the morning and say my goodbyes and everything. And then, being a Sunday, it was off to school! The real reason for this wasn’t that it was a school dar, though, it was for Jaodori. We were in the Nagasaki Lantern Festival! It was by far the coolest Jaodori event I’ve done so far (though the Yumesoutai is looking pretty hot). Janelle came in from Sasebo for the morning, and, armed with my camera, took literally hundreds of pictures. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pay her back for that! Those pictures are the greatest ones I have from this whole year.

The lantern festival itself was amazing. It was a two week affair with dragons and acrobatics and pyrotechnics and lanterns absolutely blanketing China town, all to ring in the Chinese new year. It was a show not to be missed! The bit we were in, called The China 2003, took place that Sunday afternoon in front of hundreds of people at Minato Kouen. I’m still amazed. One of the MCs tried an interview with me before hand that… well… we all know my history with interviews! And this one was live! I got the first question no prob (“I come from Canada”), then I only understood about 1 word in the next question. I took a guess at what she meant but I think there’s a good chance I got it wrong. The third question was flat out no-go. So, instead of saying wakaranai (“I don’t understand”), on the advice of my teacher, I blurted out something stupid in English, got a bit of a laugh from the crowd, and promptly ended the interview.

The rest went pretty well after that. The performance was tough, though, even though we were outdoors on a February afternoon. We had just about no time between each set so everybody was just about dead by the end of the 20, 30 minutes. But once we were done on the stage there was more to come! We had out own little mini-parade all through China-town. We’d form a circle in the streets and to a tamaoe or zugura for the crowds, and even take the dragon into the stores and restaurants. I think it might have had something to do with giving them good luck for the new year. One of the places was a Rotarian’s restuarant, which was pretty cool because I think I surprised him by being there. It was also cool seeing the people who had just come in for a meal, and their reaction when suddenly there was a dragon walking past their table. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.

After the Jaodori event was over and things were all cleaned up at the school, Janelle and I walked down to meet Kumazawa-san at the bottom of the Holland Slope so he could take us to the next major event of the day – a Rotary orientation in Isahaya. That was when we all met Regan, the next australian exchange student. Other than that there wasn’t anything special about this one. We filled in those reports, as normal, and sat around talking. We barely got to know Regan at all before teh whole thing was over. I gave Regan my cell phone info, though, so once he bought his own phone he could email me, although that didn’t end up happening until 4?, which would be April. (I just don’t think of months in terms of names anymore, it’s all numbers like in Japanese, and I have to translate backwards! I’m gone home in 8-month, University will start in 9-month, my birthday is in 6-month, etc…)

Because the Yoshida family was at the orientation (their kid, Takashi, is going to Norway on exchange next year) they had all my luggage there. We transferred the whole lot (and it was a whole lot) into Kumazawa-san’s car and headed on to the moving part of moving-day. All my stuff barely even fit into the trunk of his car! They are never going to let me on an airplane with all this junk.

We arrived at my new place at about 6:30 that night. From that point on I lived on the fourth floor of the Irie Home and Garden (and pet) store of Douzamachi. That was an amazing place to stay. It might have been too much for a first host family but I love them. There were no kids, but they did have 3 cats and, even though I think they all hated me, I liked them. Especially Ron. he was just so big, fat, and lazy. I wanted to take him home with me.

The Irie’s themselves were cool. Especially the mother. She was so funny it was crazy! And she made so much food for me I couldn’t believe it. Usually my plate was twice the size of everybody else’s! I gained at least 5 kilos in that house alone. We had good times together too. Not that we really went out much, but she did take me to lots of little restaurants that I never could have gone to otherwise. There was a tiny hole-in-the-wall sushi place that could only hold about eight people at the counter with backs against the wall. And she was always joking with me. She thought it was quite entertaining when I got a fish bone stuck in my throat. She just killed herself laughing. And then even more so when I couldn’t bring myself to swallow a mouthful of rice to try to get rid of it. Ah, good times.

The Dad was funny too, but in a slightly odd way. He’d try to speak English, but it would go very, very slowly and I’d almost surely have an easier time understanding Japanese. (Of course my mom understood how foolish he was when doing this and made funny faces at me behind his back the whole time.)

Oh! We can’t forget the kotatsu! Oh how I loved that kotatsu. It’s a table with this quilt over it and a heater underneath for cold winder nights. My host dad would lie on the floor and go in up to his neck while watching TV, and I’d always get in as much as I could too. The cats loved it too – at least Chichi and Chibi, not so much Ron – though they didn’t so much enjoy my feet running into them all the time.

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