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September 2 , 2002: A Typhoon and "Crazy Time"

Well—it has definitely been an eventful week in Naru. The biggest news, perhaps, is the arrival of my first typhoon. The office was all abuzz last week..."Tyhoo...Tyhoo..." I think each of my colleagues reminded me of the coming typhoon at least twice and double-checked that I had bought groceries. Two days before it was to arrive, I dutifully bought enough food to last a few days—especially milk and bread. By the time I arrived as Suzuran (my local grocer) the choice bread was gone, but there was still plenty of produce and milk. Apparently I got there just in time, as when one of my team-teachers went an hour later, there was no milk.

The next morning (Friday), the winds and rain started to kick in. It was also the day of the big teachers meeting. I gave a short speech and was ushered out of the room, excused from the proceedings as they would all be in Japanese. Alone in the teachers room downstairs, I had my first encounter with a poisonous centipede. Luckily I swatted it off my knee before it bit. I definitely stomped the hell out of it. Ew.

Friday afternoon I braved the rains and got some videos, then settled in for the storm. I was instructed several times by my principal not to leave the house from Friday night until the storm passed. By 6 it was raining furiously. The next morning I woke up to the sound of the mats that hang outside my apartment (for privacy) banging against the glass door into my apartment. They were crashing into the door, but the winds and rain were so intense that I didn't dare open the doors. Fortunately, the winds ripped down the line, preventing any major catastrophe. It also gave me an uninterrupted view of what was happening outside—and it wasn't pretty. Content in my secure apartment, I relaxed with a book for most of the day. I had plans to go to a friends for dinner (although that also proved to be an exercise in confusion).

Earlier in the week I had gone to my friend Yosii's house (he owns one of the liquor shops in town and has a lovely wife and 3-year old named Akira—who is "CRAZY" according to his father). He pulled up next to me on his scooter and asked me to come to his place to have dinner with his friends and speak some English. At that dinner, it was decided that we would have dinner again on Saturday. My understanding was that I would come by their house around 7, we'd have some dinner and then pop over to the karaoke place across the street. That was my understanding.

Here is the reality: at 6 p.m. the doorbell rings. I'm still in typhoon mode (pajamas) and about to jump into the shower. I answer it: It's Haruta-sensei from upstairs. He doesn't speak English, so spouts out a few phrases in Japanese, points at his watch, and points in the direction of town. My eyes grow wide and I say, "NOW?!" He nods and points at his watch again. I hold up one finger (no, not that one!) and point to his watch, close the door and quickly change, run a brush through my hair, and grab my dictionaries. As we walk through town, the destruction is everywhere. Roof tiles shattered, small structures blown over, poles holding mirrors (to see at intersections) snapped in half. I couldn't believe it. As our common language ability is small, Haruta-sensei and I exchanged dozens of "sugoi"s (sort of like, awesome, neat, interesting).

We arrive at Yosii's for what I think is a small dinner, pre-karaoke. Oh no—my confusion mounts. They are packing up food, grabbing wine and beer from the coolers—and there are families and small children everywhere. We head over to the karaoke place en masse and settle in for a picnic of sorts. Then karaoke begins. You have not seen cute until you see two 3-year old boys singing anime songs, or a 4 year old Japanese girl, dressed as a princess, singing her favorite cartoon theme. At one point Yosii and Haruta-sensei enter the room dressed in traditional garb and sing some sort of anthem. Words cannot accurately describe the evening. At one point, as the kids start to be put to bed back at Yosii's, Yosii leans over to me and yells "It's CRAZY time!!!" It really didn't get that much crazier—just more singing—and Yosii's english ability decreased, as his propensity to speak it increased.

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