Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do the Shuffle!

I am not entirely missing out this year. Many things, seemingly unique to western culture, are still present here. A couple of the holidays that I have grown up with, have been adopted for one reason or another by my new culture. A couple of weeks ago was Halloween. Many stores set aside departments stocked in costumes, plasticy items, and candy excess. Window displays let you know who was Halloween headquarters, and everyone wanted to be. The inventory was there, but for who? The locals know Halloween, but they know it like I know Ramadan. I do nothing for Ramadan. Halloween comes to the stores, and it leaves. The merchandise actually begins to shift towards Christmas the week leading up to Halloween.

Being that our jobs involve, in part, the sharing of our culture, and we are such workhorses, many of us ALTs observed Halloween this year. We each came out in flair. Ranging from “Hey didn’t you wear that yesterday?” to “Geez, I am glad you are on my side!” The night happened at a bar on one side of town, a dance club at the other, and a packed train in between.

Among the witches and the cats, the pirates and the superheroes, there were a sad sort of souls. If you could be so kind to describe them as having souls. What they were is something that none should want to claim. An evening so full of life, and they had none. A night where the dead are walking. But dead? No, something more, maybe less.

Not living. Not dead. More shuffle than walk. And perhaps, more dance than shuffle…


But not just any zombies. These three dancing zombies were straight out of the epic music video for the 1982 Michael Jackson hit Thriller. Equipped with synchronized dance routine and all! The idea popped up over dinner less than two weeks prior to the big night. We found video dance lessons on the internet and donated a solid six nights to learning the Thriller choreography. Knowing full well it was Michael Jackson, and he is an incredible dancer, it still was more difficult than expected. The week was a pain. I was sick and getting sicker. But we stuck to the task.

Friday night, the performance. After dawning our costumes, applying makeup, and a final rehearsal, we shuffled our limbs across town to Shimizu. If zombies are to be found anywhere in Shizuoka, it is in Shimizu, the shipping port neighborhood that is dead during the day, and deader at night. A friend dressed as a witch organized a small get-together that served to start off the night. She was a good witch, in that she looked bad, and not like a super-sexed-up witch of the neo-Halloween persuasion. (I have a mild distain for costumes that favor sex appeal over scare appeal, its Halloween) The pub was a pleasant beginning, where we could show and tell costumes and do some chatting. The floor was small, and mostly occupied by stools and tables. It was requested, but Thriller would not happen there.

We smartly exited in just enough time to catch the night’s final train. At 11:30, the train was surprisingly loaded with suits. Suits, and the men inside them are not uncommon on the train. But most of the benches being occupied by such this near to midnight, was peculiar. More fun for us. For the 25 minute ride I managed to make very little eye contact and still engage my audience. Mouth agape, staring unfocused into space, I sat next to various passengers. I had my photo with some, some had their photo with me. I moaned on occasion. Some of the guys got quite excited by the influx of strange foreigners in costume, others did as they always do on the train, just stare at their lap.

We found our club, and for 1000Yen were in the door. As good a price as can be had in this town. And apparently this place has better music. Still bad hip-hop music, but better than the worse hip-hop music we could find for more money elsewhere. We danced. I wish that I could always dance like a zombie. Staying in character is so easy, as it requires complete avoidance of fluid movement. My body has a natural aptitude for ignoring fluid movement while dancing!

After establishing our zombie presence, I crept over to the DJ. Being Halloween, and Japan, Thriller should have automatically been on the playlist, but just in case, I requested it. He seemed uncertain of having it, and I was worried that he would settle for some other Michael Jackson ballad, or worse, just a sample. One does not invest a week to the study of a unique dance routine, and arrive unprepared. I reached into the pocket of my tattered jacket, and emerged with a compact disc of the very track I wanted. Mr. DJ seemed quite pleased at my undead foresight and took the disc.

It may have been another hour to pass, but our song did get played. A stage presented itself as the room’s occupants cleared to the walls. It was obvious to everyone what the song was, what we were, and what we were here for. A small dance floor that was little better than the practices on my small apartment tatami floor. We did our thing, and were pleased with it. The DJ graciously observed the entirety of the song and did not attempt to improve upon it as DJs so often do.

The club was dark, and bore no videos of our number, but we did manage to capture an alleyway encore. As originally recorded, the rough alley take, had only the music in our heads. But friends have managed to add sound after the fact.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Look over here --->

I have added my address to the sidebar on the right. The formatting is funky so acknowledge my "[line 1/2/3]" notes. Otherwise here it is:

Davin Haukebo-Bol
Shizuoka-Ken, Shizuoka-Shi
Aoi-Ku, Otowa-Cho 26-27
Haitsu 26#301
420-0834 Japan

Where we like to go large to small, they do just the opposite. Prefecture, city, ward, neighborhood, street. Please feel no obligation to send me stuff, unless of course, you do feel an obligation to send me stuff. Then, by all means, send me stuff.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Okay, so we are well overdue for an update here. I have been a busy fellow. October 10th marked my last day at the mountain school, Ikawa. The day was also an end of term for the students. And as there were only ten of them, each one had to stand up and give a speech. I could not tell you what they spoke about, for it was all Japanese. The seventh graders read their words directly off sheets of paper, the eighth graders had note cards, and the ninth graders had theirs memorized.

As their ceremony ended, the focus shifted toward me, the departing ALT. I stood on stage and the oldest student addressed me of behalf of the students and teachers. I then gave a small speech, and they gave me a couple lovely gifts. I received a photo album of my time there and an Ikawa Mempa, a handmade wooden lunchbox special to the area. At one point before receiving one, I inquired about purchasing such a lunch box. There would have been a three month wait. After their gifts, I gave them mine. I grabbed my guitar and played a song. The night before, the science teacher (whose apartment shares a wall with mine) asked me to play guitar for the teachers and students. I agreed, and shifted through the songs I know, trying to find the appropriate one. I did not find such a song, so I wrote it. At the time of its performance, the song was not yet 12 hours old. Perhaps I will post it here some time, but it is not quite ready yet. Just imagine it to be really fantastic.

With a three day weekend for a buffer, I began my time at my next school, Ozato Junior High. I live on one edge of the downtown area, and Ozato is on the other end of downtown. So it is a perfect 25 minute bike ride away. Lately I have been shopping the raingear aisles as I do intend to bike every single day. On that first day, same as Ikawa, I was asked to stand up and address the student body. Except this time it was 727 students. With 21 separate homerooms, I spent two weeks giving my self introduction lesson.

There is no questioning the differences between the city and country kids. While my last batch was quiet and shy, the current crew is what I would expect of junior high students, but with a splash of elementary maturity. On average I can dedicate at least half my day to staring at my desk, so I try to break it up by strolls through the hall. Without fail, I am confronted by students in the hall, and every conversation goes like this:

Student - “Davin, hello!”
Me - “Hello/hi/howdy”
Student – (giggles)

Sometimes there is a student that will try for a better exchange, and they do alright. But mostly it is the above conversation, and that takes place maybe three dozen times on a slow day. I am the recipient of many giggles and much attention these days. To say that I am irritated or above such attentions, would be false. I do enjoy my current celebrity and do not look forward to its eventual waning. Every teacher should meet such enthusiasm when entering the classroom.

So much more active! While Ikawa’s extracurriculars were limited to badminton, Ozato offers the works. In my free time I wander around and have watched judo, table tennis, art club, basketball, brass band, chorus, kendo, and more. In my self introduction I talk about ultimate Frisbee, and have subsequently been invited to play it with the P.E. class and an enthusiastic group of boys after lunch. One boy in particular is responsible for coming to retrieve me for game play. With them I have also played “police & thieves,” but had to turn down dodgeball, as I was sick. And in doing so, the students were quite concerned.

It goes well. I am digging this placement. The downtime is monotonous, but the rest puts me on my toes. Working alongside four different teachers for 21 classes should keep things shifting.

More to come
And plenty to say
But we’ll pickle that plum
Another day.