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December 8, 2006

Well, turns out that after my big test I haven't had much time to update this anyway! I've had a bunch of classes and had to catch up on a bunch of stuff I put off over the week before when studying took preference to everything.

The test itself was OK, I think. The vocab section started off really well, and then slowly got worse, but was still the best section for me I think. Next was the Listening Comprehension section, which I did way better in than I thought I would, I think. Then was the Grammar section, where I am more or less aiming for the 25%-by-chance result from a multi-choice test. I don't know how I'll do! I'll let you know – in February when they will finally get back to us with the results of the computer-marked answer sheet, which should really take all of about 10 minutes to assess.

So the next big thing is my Christmas break! I have been trying to sort out what exactly to do. Turns out the Japanese couldn't care less about Xmas, so we all go to work. Figuring that was a pretty crappy idea, I took a couple of weeks off, and tried to organise a plan. Everyone I knew was either going home, or had plans with friends already booked, or were having their boyfriend of girlfriend come to visit. So I had to strike out on my own. I knew some people would be in Thailand and Korea at varioous times, who I wanted to visit, so I figured that would make a good trip.

I rang the booking agent and tried to sort it out. But it turns out that there are approximately zero flights left. So I ended up taking the only itinerary I could, for a nicely inflated price – I will leave my place at probably around 7am Xmas Day, and arrive in Bangkok at about 1am Boxing Day. I'm gonna be spending a fair chunk of my Xmas Day in Shanghai Airport. Wicked. Still beats Goma, I guess.

That was the plan anyway. So the guy was to email me the details so I could arrange a payment within three days. The email didn't arrive that night, but it was late so I figured it would be there by tomorrow.

Anyone who knows me should know that at this point I probably should have realised what was happening, and panicked right there and then. The big guy must have been watching over me again.

The next day I had a calligraphy class miles away after school, so I didn't get home to check my emails until about 11pm. The email wasn't there. I figured I'd better ring him after work the next day.

After work the next day, an after-school English class that was supposed to have been held on Tuesday – but wasn't, due to some administrative thing – happened. So I stayed behind and ran that. I got home in time to realise the travel agent had closed.

The next day was today. And the final day I could pay for my ticket, or lose it. But I still had no idea who to pay or how to do it. So in between classes at my primary school, I pulled out my cellphone and rang Osaka (where the office is). After being put on hold for a while, I was told that yes, they had the wrong email address, and that yes, I would have to pay today. I eventually managed to tell them the correct address, but couldn't check my email until I got back to my middle school this afternoon.

Which I did, at about 2pm. And finally the email was there. But then I had a class. After that, I waited for the teacher who can actually speak English to arrive to help me try to sort out how the hell to pay this by the end of the working day, or lose my flight, and quite possibly, at this late stage, my entire chance for a holiday. So she finally arrived, but she didn't know. After scouring the inscrutable Kyoto Bank website ( and being led around in one of those click-then-click-then-click-then end up back where you started bloody annoying website loops, we decided to give the bank a call. On my cellphone again 😦

After a lengthy discussion, we found out that we could transfer the money by ATM, if we did it before 3pm. It was now 3.40. Any transactions made now would only be registered tomorrow – too late. And we could go into a bank, but there isn't one for miles, and they'd be well closed by then. So, rang Osaka again. We could do the transfer and have it arrive tomorrow, so long as we faxed them a copy of the ATM receipt by the time their office closed. So we rushed off to the nearest ATM. It asked for my transaction book. So we rushed to my house to get it, and then back again. And could NOT work out how to do the damn thing. Again and again it just kept rejecting my book and asking me to please try again. A woman waiting outside the little ATM booth got annoyed and asked to use it first. So we let her. Then we made another phonecall to the bank to ask how the hell to use their damn machine. Eventually, we got it sorted and the payment made, and a receipt.

Rushed back to the school with the receipt, stuck it to a piece of paper and went to fax it. Didn't know how to use the fax. Couldn't ask the other teachers cos not supposed to use it for personal things. Clock's ticking. Tried anyway. It took my piece of paper, then a bunch of Japanese flashed up, then it was quiet. Did it work? Who knows. A few minutes later, made another (cell)phonecall to Osaka. Did they have the fax? No. Wait.


Was outside to make the call, cos we're so far away that just going inside means no reception. Despite there being no high school for miles, there were a bunch of high school girls there for some reason, who more or less flipped out when they saw me, and all came running over for a closer look. Made me laugh. My kids are not so completely over-the-top enthusiastic about me these days as they were when I first got here, probably as much due to sheer exhaustion as anything else. So when I see a new person (which doesn't happen very often), it's interesting to remember the initial "kakkoi" reaction again. And it's always nice to know it's not only 13 year olds who get so excited about me.

So they all stood around cursing the fact they hadn't paid better attention in English class as I waited for the Osaka office to call me back. They were previous students of the school who had come back to say konnichiwa to their old homeroom teacher. And dropped not-so-subtle hints about not having a boyfriend. Like: "I don't have a boyfriend". Pop Quiz, Hotshot: You haven't seen a girl over the age of 15 years in months. A pretty girl (or two) of completely eligible age – probably around 17 or 18 years old – flutter their eyelashes at you adoringly and tell you earnestly that they don't have a boyfriend. In Japan, where an age difference of even 8 or 9 years probably wouldn't raise any eyebrows. What do you do? What do you do?


So, Osaka eventually called me back and told me that yes, they had recieved the fax. I had not yet faxed them my passport or other things which they had asked me to, so I asked if it was OK. Was my ticket safe? The guy said yes.

I hope he's right. I've had so many encounters of miscommunication here already where things haven't worked out like I had been led to believe they would. Here's hoping this isn't one of those times!

Sorry, I've tried to avoid these long rambling stories like they used to be in my emails. But, well, I'm tired.

Word of the Day – 問題のある – mondai no aru – problematic

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