"Don't forget, we will leave at 9:00!"
"That's right -- LEAVE. Don't make us come to your house to get you!"
"Wakarimashita! I understand! Don't worry, I won't be late!"
This was the exchange that took place on Friday afternoon, before I left the BoE for the day. As you may have guessed, I've slipped into my more typical habit of not getting to work on time -- a definite no-no in a Japanese office. It doesn't make a huge difference, seeing as I don't really have a defined role at the Board of Ed., but it does make me look like a bit of an ass. Here's hoping it's balanced out by all the days I stay late...
I was early to the bus on Saturday though, despite feeling like a giant snot-monster.
Note to self: don't get a cold for the weekend of your Board of Education trip.
Good thing we spent most of the day on the bus -- I did my share of sleeping while we drove and everybody else drank. No really. I wasn't joking when I said I'd be offered a beer the moment we left.
Our first stop was to pick up some of our co-workers who live in Asahikawa. Then it was on to a roadside toilet. I only mention this stop because I met a guy living in the smallest village in Hokkaido. His English was great (he told me he learned it naturally -- four years living with a Canadian girlfriend). Even more unusual, he approached me to talk, which is such a rarity it threw me for a loop. Unfortunately, most of what he talked about it was the recent arrest of an area ALT for marijuana possesion. Which is looked at in the same light as heroin trafficking. Well, now I know what the talk at Mid-Year Orientation will be about.
Further notes to self: Be aware that talking to strange boys in public will make your BOE assume you are now dating and will shortly be getting married.
The rest of the drive was uneventful, or at least I was able to sleep the rest of the way. For those who know me, you know I generally can't sleep in a moving vehicle. Yes, I was actually that tired.
We eventually made it to Otaru. Just in time for lunch. Not knowing much about Otaru other than they are famous for glass-making, canals and sushi, I was hoping for some good sushi. And I was lucky. One of the older guys in the office claimed to know the best sushi restaurant in Otaru, so we hopped in a cab and left the tourist district for a little hole in the wall sushi place. It was amazing! Expensive by Hokkaido standards -- my 11-piece set was around 3000 yen -- but worth every yenny. I was glad I had popped an illegal Sudafed tablet that morning so I could actually taste it. And then I was surprised to have lunch paid for by the gentleman who had brought us to the restaurant. It was amazing. He was also friends with the owners, so I think he was happy to show off his knowledge (and maybe show off his gaijin handling skills). Afterwards, seeing as it was my first time to Otaru, we walked down to the canals. Pretty, but they have better ones in Europe. I would have liked to stop at the Otaru beer factory, but of course on a bus tour, there was no time for that. Besides, I wasn't drinking becuase I was sick.
Our next stop was Sapporo. We had a few hours before the enkai, which I used for sleeping. The enkai itself was fun. The food was pretty good, and I like hanging out with my BoE people. They may not speak English, but they try. Nomunication is always a good thing.
At some point the superintendent bought a special dish for me in this latest round of "what will the foreigner eat?". I was presented with a live squid -- only it had just been sliced into sashimi! I have to say, it was some of the tastiest squid I have ever tasted -- moving tentacles, firing chromatophores and all. Even the gonads were tasty. Yes, I will admit it was a bit freaky to be eating something that was still moving. But I guess it doesn't get any fresher... I wonder if my BoE is dissappointed that I like Japanese food so much? I think it's funny that they continually forget that I love sashimi. I know part of it is a way to make conversation with limited conversation skills.
The nijikai was at the same place as last year -- some dancing/comedy show. This year, I could even understand some of the jokes, but I don't think it was as good as last year. I wasn't alone in my thinking either.
I headed back to the hotel after the nijikai, where we ate カレーまん (steamed dumplings filled with curry), and pizza. I was so tired afterwards!
The next day, it was back on the bus. We stopped at the omiyage-Emporium so people could buy gifts. I had ice cream -- the best soft cream (soft serve) in all of Hokkaido. Then it was all you can eat and drink at a Ginghis-Khan Restarant. Ginghis-Khan is marinated lamb that you grill on a mongolian-hat-shaped grill. It's another "Hokkaido-specialty". We all ate and drank (or were forced to eat and drink -- some of the guys had to finish all of the food -- it was pretty funny actually. They would get up to go to the bathroom or something and when they came back, someone had added an extra bowlful of rice to their plates) until we were stuffed.
Then it was back on the bus for the drive home. We got back pretty early (thankfully), so I spent the rest of the day doing nothing and concentrating on feeling better.
Today I'm still a snot-monster, but I feel vaguely human. Maybe one more good night of sleep and I'll be all better. One can only hope...