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August 14, 2002: Obon Festival

Boarding the Obon Festival race boats.

Yesterday I went to the town's Obon Festival. Obon festival in Japan is the time when people return to their homes and celebrate their ancestors with their family. My principal took me to boat races in the morning (imagine 11 people paddling a giant canoe and one person sitting low in the boat and banging a giant gong) and then to the fireworks last night. They were spectacular and it was a great opportunity to meet students and teachers. Today is the second day in a row that I am the only teacher in the office. It's not a big deal—it gives me the chance to get organized, write the speeches (in Japanese) that I have to give, and write the radio show I will be doing every week (in English). I have busied myself reading bad English primers that are peppered with songs by Abba, Linda Rondstadt and Mariah Carey—that's their introduction to English music!

Obon Festival boat in Naru Harbor.

This morning I was paraded around town; it seems to be a popular pastime. I went to meet the president of the BOE, got my water bill straightened out, and got my picture taken for my alien registration card. I tell you, the excitement never ends!

In other misadventures, I had quite a time getting my phone turned on. I mistakenly went to the power company instead of the phone people. They were quite confused by me saying (in broken Japanese) "Phone. Is bad." I went to my principal in desperation—who figured out that the solution was to push a tiny button on the back of the phone marked reset. Of course. I have not been able to figure out my answering machine yet, and using my microwave involves me pushing buttons and turning knobs until something happens. I haven't had any major mishaps yet, but I'm still getting used to lighting my gas range any time I need to cook. (My goal is to retain my eyebrows the entire year and not burn them off in a gas inferno!)

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2002 North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617-1475