30 November, 2010

Stuff from months ago

Ok, so I haven't posted in three months.
Sue me.

Hopefully looking back on a whole bunch of events will make it easier to boil them down to their most memorable highlights. That, and maybe I can't be bothered writing quite as much as when I first arrived in Japan.

Earlier this month, I thought that I should try to update the blog to the present by November the 30th. Well, it's now November the 30th and I'm throwing up one post, so at this rate I should be able to catch up by... 2014ish, I think.

So, what was going on around three months ago, you ask? Well, I'd settled into my apartment a little, and the annual Tomakomai Minato Matsuri (Port Festival) was on the 6th, 7th and 8th of August.

He looks festive

The main festival area had a whole bunch of food stalls, with game stalls set up for kids, arts and crafts stalls and a whole bunch of stalls selling a variety of goods including wood carvings and pot plants??? Anyway, another major attraction of the entire proceeding was the fireworks show down near the port area itself. Dan and I wandered back towards our apartment building after bumping into half the board of education at the matsuri itself to watch the fireworks, which were definitely quite nice to see.

No, the buildings in the foreground have not exploded.
On Saturday there was the massive street dancing parade, and no, street dancing doesn't mean a bunch of teenagers with too much of some sort of drug in their system gyrating to some 'music'. This was seriously awesome, traditional dancing by a whole bunch of people in great costumes down some of Tomakomai's main streets. I don't know how a lot of them did it either, because a lot of people looked like grandparents and they were going for around an hour or so, I reckon. Different people came down the street in slightly different costumes and danced a set little routine over and over again. It was pretty bloody amazing, to be honest, and really made me feel that I was definitely in Japan once more.

Dancing Dancing Dancing
We decided to come back to the matsuri another night, and it just so happened that Teresa and Curtis, other English assistants from Mukawa and Hobetsu respectively (two towns about 20 and 40 minutes by car down the road) had tried to find the festival the night before, to no avail. With fresh directions, they managed to make it back the next night, and the three of us along with Dan and Tom from Tomakomai managed to get a seat in the crowded beer garden area of the matsuri. It was at this moment that the 'hundred dollar drink' incident would occur. At some point during the night, I got up from the table to get another beer and Curtis got up to look for a soft drink (he had to drive home that night, and Japan has a zero tolerance regarding drink driving). After finding a cold bottle of tea he liked, Curtis inadvertently started a catastrophic chain of events. The drink was 110 yen, I believe. At that time, the exchange rate was almost close enough to say that it was around $1.10 US dollars, and a little more in Australian. So, Curtis pulls out his coins and proceeds to count through them to try and find the right amount of change.

This takes a long time.

Throughout this period, the lady selling the drink has been patiently waiting for the gaiijn (foreigner) to hurry the hell up! Finally, Curtis realises that he's about 10yen short and hands the lady a note instead. Standing next to him, I think that the ordeal is pretty much over. But it's not.
The lady then takes quite a long time getting the change, and that's when I innocently ask Curtis: 'uh, what note did you give her? 1000?'. In Japan, the smallest note is a 1000, followed by a 2000, then 5000 and 10000. With the exchange rate what it was, Americans (and almost, Australians) were often knocking off two zero's at the time, meaning they were $10, $20, $50 and $100ish.

'Uh, no. I only had a 10000 yen note.'
The woman returns with half the change her stall has likely accumulated in the past afternoon, while I shudder at what has just occurred. Curtis has just paid $100 for a $1 drink, and caused the lady to pull out $99.
Now, back home some people might think this no major deal, but you've gotta remember that this was a festival stall, and we already stood out as foreigners without needing to bring more attention to ourselves.

Oh well, at least it was memorable!

Curtis with his hundred dollar drink
Well, that catches me up a little bit from August. Next stop: the Hokkaido Jet Association welcome parties and Sapporo orientation, hopefully by this time next week!

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