Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Today, I was Santa Claus again.

This time, I went to Mizumoto Day Care. Some lady who works at the Muroran International Center sends her kid there, and somehow she found out about me, and told the boss of the day care that there was a "great person available to play Santa". (See also: yours truly)

The thing that gets me is I have no idea how she found out about me. No matter where I go, people know way too much about me.

The first town I lived in after coming here to work was a small town in the mountains. Hakuta Town. Pop: 5500

I went shopping at the local market the first day I got there. I bought some rice, some other foodstuffs, and some bread. As I was standing in line, an old lady standing behind me looked in my basket and said, "I knew it. Foreigners eat bread."

Umm, if you look a little further, you'll see a big ol' bag o' rice in there too.

There's this big misconception in Japan that it's either/or when it comes to bread and rice. Rice is the shushoku (staple food) in Japan. All three meals usually consist of rice and other stuff. The idea is that Americans eat bread at every meal, and that we don't eat rice at all.


We used to eat rice all the time at the Kidd Family household.

Anyway, there was that incident, and then there was the big one that made me reevaluate my standing in town.

My boss took me out drinking about a week after I'd moved to Hakuta. It was near the end of July, right in the middle of one of those killer hot Shimane summers with humidity that makes you feel ill the second you step outside and makes you want to stay away from food altogether. So we go to a local bar that night, and what does he decide to drink? Atsukan (hot sake). Hot sake is a winter drink, not a middle of one of those killer hot Shimane summers with humidity that makes you feel ill the second you step outside and makes you want to stay away from food altogether drink. I drank that atsukan with him, and woke up the next morning REALLY regretting it. Never mind that by the end of the night, most of that atsukan went into the toilet, and I couldn't sit up straight. The next morning, I was SSSSSSSSSSSIIIIIIIIIIICCCCKKKKK.

So I set out to find some headache medicine. One problem. You can't buy medicine unless you go to a pharmacy. Not even aspirin. I was not aware of this at the time. So I wandered around town, asking for headache medicine at various shops and getting more frustrated with each "Umm, we're not a pharmacy." Finally, at one shop, the old lady running it said, "We're not a pharmacy, but if you want, I can give you some of the medicine I have in the back."

Thank you, old lady!

So, the next workday, I went in t the office, and one of my coworkers looked over at me and smirked. "What?" "Word is, you were wandering around town all weekend looking for headache medicine." The entire office laughed. I freaked out. What kind of a place am I living in? Everybody knows what I'm doing? AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

So I was very careful about what I did in town after that. Three years later, I moved to Izumo.

Population 80,000.

Okay, this time, no worries.


I went to a festival in the fall, because some of my students were supposed to be dancing at it. By the time I got to the shrine, the festival was over, but I thought I'd go and see what the shrine looked like anyway. I climbed a long staircase up to the top of the hill that the shrine was on. At the top of the steps, there was a guy standing in front of a sake barrel. He takes one look at me and says, "Hey, have a drink!" He's had a few himself, so he wants to spread the wealth. I wasn't too excited about the sake, as ever since the Hakuta Incident sake has not been an alcohol I have enjoyed consuming. But I went ahead and drank it down anyway. Once I did, he poured me another one. Umm, okay, down the hatch. Then he pours me another. I drink it too. Then he takes me over to the shrine and introduces me to the head priestess, who pours me another drink. We talk a bit, and I get invited to a party at the community center at the base of the hill. I start to head back, when Stair Guy pours me another drink. By now, I'm starting to feel the effects of the booze, and I'm feeling happy. Five big drinks of sake in about ten minutes equals one drunken Dustin.

I somehow make it down the stairs. I'm not quite sure how. Stair Guy was carrying the sake barrel and fell down. At the bottom, I was invited into the building where the party was going to happen. They showed me where I could sit. I sat down. My head hit the table.

Ohh yeah. Bad news. I spent the rest of the night trying to sober up, drinking tea, miso soup, and eating persimmons. I had a car driving service drive my car and me back to my apartment. The next day, I was okay. But when I went in to work, one of my coworkers looked over me and smirked. "Heard you had a bit of an entertaining night last night." From WHO?

So I realized I had to be careful about what I did in Izumo. Plus I was teaching 5000 elementary school students. People knew what I was doing everywhere.

Now I find myself going through similar things here in Muroran. The lesson? No matter where I go, I need to be careful about what I do.

So the Santa gig at Mizumoto was a lot of fun. I walked in with a bag slung over my back and all of the day care kids went "SANTAAAAAA!!!!"

The whole time, they were waving at me and saying "Hi Santa!" It was so adorable. I passed out presents, took pictures with the kids, and, as all Santas do, made a small child cry.

They sang a song to me as a present to Santa. It was an original Japanese Christmas song. It asked, "Santa, what do you do in the summer? Do you go to the beach? Do you wear red swimming trunks? Santa, what were you like as a child? Did you get in fights? Did you eat cake for breakfast?"

Cute stuff.

Plus, it got me out of school cleaning in the morning. That afternoon, we did some cleaning, and then everybody left for winter vacation.


Blogger Megan said...

It sounds like you get followed by papparazzi with telefoto lenses on their cameras or something...hey! You're the Brad Pitt of Muroran!

Sunday, December 25, 2005 12:38:00 AM  

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