Snails, frog, and nato – oh my!

It’s been a really interesting weekend. I’ve gotten to see a lot more of Niigata, thanks to the hordes of other JETs around here. Friday I met the other prefectural ALTs at our first Board of Education meeting in Nagaoka – it was totally the classic Japanese office environment. We all had to stand in a line and introduce ourselves in Japanese to the entire office, complete with lots of bowing and applause. Very interesting. Later on, I finally got the chance to meet the other Kamo ALT – it’s just the two of us here in this city, so chances are we’ll be running into each other from time to time. Luckily, she seems really nice; her name is Rosalind and she’s from England. Anyway, on Friday night we both wound up at the Kamo community center for gospel choir (I played the piano) and Kisa Club (aka drinky-drinky time). After that, her supervisor took us out for more drinking and eating. He seemed to be on a mission to find something she wouldn’t try, so she (and I, by association) ate a variety of dishes including umeboshi, snail, fried frog (which I liked quite a bit), and nato (which I could do without eating again).

Saturday I went out to lunch with Rosalind and some other international association-type folks. After that, Rosalind and I took the train a couple of stops to Sanjo, where we met up with 8 or 9 other JETs and drove out to a beach town called Kashiwazaki. Unfortunately, it started raining almost the second we stepped out of the car. Our Sanjo group met up with 20 or 30 other JETs and ate soggy burgers and hot dogs in the rain… I have to say, that’s the longest I’ve willingly stood in the rain… possibly ever. The sunset was stunning though. It’s funny, the sun sets really early here, by maybe 7:00 pm, and it comes up before 5:00 am. It makes for an interesting “day”. Anyway, most of the people stayed the night out there at a guy named Patrick’s house – apparently he has a huge two-story house that comes free with the job. I guess Kashiwazaki is home to a huge nuclear power plant, so it’s a perk; he also gets paid “risk money”. Hrm. Anyway, I caught a train home to get some rest…

I woke up to find Yamaya-san at my door with three fresh-baked loaves of different types of bread – apparently, baking is one of his hobbies. I also got an infusion of “foreign” food. I meant to go to Niigata City (the biggest city in this prefecture with a population of about 550,000) to meet up with the other JETs for the Niigata Festival – the main attraction is a huge dancing ceremony across the bandai bridge. Anyway, I actually did take the train up to Niigata but decided not to meet up with them and to go shopping instead. I had a good time browsing some of the larger department stores and hitting up Kinokuniya. Apparently, the Kinokuniya in Niigata City is the only place in the entire prefecture where you can get English books (not counting the Internet). And there are only three [small] rows. But still, I had to stock up on a few Murakami books and a study guide for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. But it was fun. :)

Anyway, it’s back to work tomorrow, so I better start winding down. Hope all of you are doing well.