Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Drive On, It Don't Mean Nothin'

Day Nine.

Get up. Clean up. Feed Jiji. Hit the road.

Hiroshi's parents told me I should come out one more time before I went back to Hokkaido, so I made today the day. I got out to Yasugi a little earlier than I planned, so I swung by another friend's house to catch up with him and his family...but nobody was there, so I went back to the Yamanes.

We talked a bit, had some food (which is always tasty...Hiroshi's mom is a good cook), and then I had to head out to Hakuta again. They suggested I swing by the Yasugi BOE and see if I could catch up with anybody I knew. Good call, so that's what I did.

The Yasugi Board of Education building is what used to be Hakuta's Town Hall building. In a show of the true forward-thinking nature of Yasugi, the sign at the entrance to the parking lot says...

Hakuta Town Hall.

Gotta love it.

So I went in and caught up with a few people I knew. One of my BOE coworkers is still there, so we had some coffee and chatted for a while. It was weird, because when Hakuta merged with Yasugi and Hirose, everybody that worked at the Hakuta Town Hall got shuffled around with Hirose and Yasugi people, so there were a lot of unfamiliar faces. It was good to catch up with people I knew, but seeing that change was kinda weird.

Then it was over to see the Onishis. The Onishis are another one of the families in Hakuta that I got along really well with. I got to know them by going to Hakuta's volleyball tournaments.

Hakuta Junior High School has a really strong volleyball program. This is probably because there is not a heck of a lot else to do in Hakuta besides play volleyball. Elementary school teams from Hakuta go to nationals fairly regularly. These kids all come to Hakuta JHS. Anyway, when I started working at Hakuta JHS, some of the other teachers told me about Hakuta's prowess in the volleyball world. I had never been very interested in volleyball, but I figured if I went to some games and cheered with the students, it would be a good chance to get to know my students. It worked out that not only did I get to know my students, I got to know their parents.

The Hakuta Volleyball Parents were a very cool, if somewhat eccentric, group of people (hey, I fit right in). The Nonomuras, Akanas, Inoues, Tabuchis, and Onishis. All very accepting of me, all very cool. We would hang out together between games and BS about whatever. I miss those guys a lot. They were really energetic and a lot of fun to be around. They definitely made life in Hakuta a lot more enjoyable.

I got out to their house, and only Mr. Onishi was home. He had me come in and have a seat and relax while we waited for Mrs. Onishi to come back home. Their oldest daughter had gone back to her apartment over near Matsue (that was okay, though, as I'd seen her at the party the night before). Their second oldest was at school, studying (bummer). Their third oldest was in the hospital, recovering from knee surgery. And their youngest was out with Mrs. Onishi getting a haircut.

Mr. Onishi has it kind of rough, I think. One guy and six women (don't forget Grandma Onishi!) in one household. That's gotta be a lot of estrogen to deal with.

We had some coffee and watched some TV while we waited. He seemed to be doing good, and other than Saki (their third daughter) being in the hospital, so was the family. When Mrs. Onishi got back home with Aya (their youngest), she greeted me with a "Dustin! Geez you've lost weight. Are you okay? Let me fix you something to eat." No complaints there. She's a good cook, too.

But she kept trying to feed me more and more. "How many mochi (rice cakes) do you want?" "Two, thanks." Out come three. Mochi are made from rice that has been steamed and then pounded with a big wooden hammer. There's a lot of carbs in just one, and they fill you up really quickly. I honestly think she was trying to fatten me back up so I could survive the cold Hokkaido winter.

But they were tasty, all the same.

After polishing off my mochi, I decided I would head over to Saki's hospital and say hi. Being alone in a hospital room can be really lonely, and really boring. So, I said goodbye to the Onishis and headed out. But before I went to visit Saki, I had to make a couple of stops.

First, Yonago Station. In my drunken stupor the night before, I lost my gloves somewhere. I had Suguru check with the restaurant for me, and they didn't have them, so I figured my only other chance was Yonago Station. I went in to the lost and found, and after a bit of grilling on what kind of gloves they were, the guy brought them out for me and said they found them on the train. Thank you to whoever found my gloves.

Then it was over to Cosmo to pick up a "Get Well" gift for Saki. I looked through the toys, but all they had were "cute" things, and since I may be many things but one of them is not "cute", I went over to the CD section and picked out a fun CD for her.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Blow In The Wind". These guys are great. A "super band" made up of members of other punk bands, they play punk-style covers of pop songs, and they have a lot of fun doing it. The five members are: Spike (Swingin' Utters) on vocals, Fat Mike (NOFX) on bass, Chris (Foo Fighters) on guitar, Dave on drums and Joey on guitar (both from Lagwagon). Give these guys a try. Good times.

Then it was on over to the hospital to visit Saki. I walked into her hospital room, where she had her leg strapped in to some contraption that was bending it for her. She has to stick her leg in that twice a day for rehabilitation. But even though she was stuck in a hospital bed without a heck of a lot to do, she was still the same smiley Saki that I've always known. Absolutely spectacular kid. So we talked for a bit, and I gave her the CD. She's a fan of rock music, so I'm pretty sure she'll enjoy it. I wished her well, and then was on my way again.

Next, I headed out to Plant-5 in Sakai-Minato to make a very necessary purchase. Plant-5 is a huge store that is almost an equivalent of Costco. Very, very cool. I was always confused by the name, until I saw Plant-2 in Fukui as I was heading up the coast last summer. I just wonder where 1, 3, and 4 are. I also wonder if there's a six out there. I hope there's one somewhere near where I am now.

The purchase I had to make was a hat. Not just any hat, a winter hat. For about $6, there were hats on sale that would keep me sane this winter. I tried to buy one last year in March, but I didn't have the money at the time. After I got back from Spring Vacation back home in Oregon, I went out there and tried to buy one. I didn't see any, so I asked a clerk there. "Sir, it is April. Winter has passed you by." His voice was dripping with sarcasm. And here I thought Japanese people couldn't master the fine art of sarcasm. Yes, I know it's April. No need to be a pile.

So it was one of my goals while I was back in Shimane to get that hat. It comes down and covers the ears, has a strap that goes under your chin and can be adjusted to keep it on your head, and (the best part!) it has flaps that you can put across your face to keep it warm. Fantastic. I snapped one up, then I boogied on back to Matsue to meet up with my friend Sakiko for dinner.

Sakiko is a pretty cool friend of mine. I met her last March at an international event at Mt. Sanbe in Shimane. She had been to CWU on a summer program back when I was a sophomore (not that we met then...it was just one of those "No way!" moments), and we hit it off pretty well. We decided that we should catch up and talk about what's been going on, so we went out and grabbed some dinner. After dinner, we drove around for a while and just talked about stuff. After that, we went back into town, grabbed some coffee, and then I had to get back to Izumo to meet up with my friend Satoshi.

Satoshi. He's a good friend of mine since before my exchange to Shimane U. He came over to CWU with the same group that Hiroshi came on (July 1998). We've been friends ever since. He took me around Tottori (his home prefecture) when I was on my exchange, and he even drove me to Kansai Airport so I could fly home. He went to CWU for a year, and after graduating from Shimane U., he's been studying journalism in the U.S. Very cool stuff. He was back in Japan for Christmas Break, and since he was already planning on visiting some other friends in Matsue, I invited him to come on down to Izumo and hang out.

I drove over to the station and had him follow me back to Lisa's place, and then we went out to Ken's Box for some drinks. While we were there, Yukki told me that she wanted me to learn a song to sing on my last night in town. Apparently, she thought my voice fit the song. The song was "Konayuki" by Remiromen. She works at a CD shop in Izumo, and she said if I swung by the next day after 6, she would give me a copy of the single so I could practice. Not one to turn down free CDs, I said okay.

Satoshi and I drank for a while and talked about Hokkaido and the U.S. It came time for Ken's to close, so we packed it up and headed on back to Lisa's place. On our way back there, we ran across a drunk guy sleeping out on the gravel. This is not as uncommon a sight over here as one would think. He was flat out cold! In the middle of the winter. While Shimane winters are nowhere near as severe as Hokkaido winters, it's generally unwise to sleep outside during them. So Satoshi and I woke the guy up and tried to get him to go home. When it looked like he was on his way there ("Just over there, just over there"...wherever "over there" was), we got back on our way. But he started following us, and while we knew where the step off was on the path we were on, he apparently did not. "Whoa." SPLAT. "Owwwwwwww." Satoshi helped him into a taxi, and after a brief stop at the local convenience store, it was back to Lisa's place. Satoshi took the couch, and I took my familiar place under the kotatsu.

End Day Nine.

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