Since the beginning of the year, I’ve joined a number of local parents every Tuesday evening in the Shionoe Elementary School gymnasium to play volleyball. I was really excited when they asked me if I wanted to join them, since it would be a good opportunity to do something new, get some exercise, and also interact with another group of people around town. Plus, I don’ really feel like I have much of a connection with this school, so an opportunity like this was perfect.
Braving the harsh gymnasium temperatures – frigid in the winter and sweltering in the summer – I’ve been honing a relatively useless skill set while also have a nice time. I am not the best one there, but I’m also not trying to be. I just want to have some fun. I do tend to get annoyed when one of the guys wanting me to practice setting the ball, since he doesn’t like how I do it. During these times, I would just do it worse on purpose, since I tend to be passive aggressive like that, but now I simply refuse. While my fundamentals are only average, my jumping ability is well above that of anyone around me. As long as they put the ball up in my general direction, I can get there and crush it down on my opponents.
You might think this is the apex of my jump, but you would be mistaken….Yea for keg legs.
Overall it has been good, and I can see that I’ve gotten noticeably better at it. I do find it rather difficult to communicate with this group of people though. The sort of language that is used in a sporting environment is vastly different from proper conversation and would require a much higher level of fluency for me to really engage in it. The difficulty would be no different in English or for any other language of course. Such idiomatic phrases as ‘Take it home!’, ‘Wheels!’ or ‘Owned’ can’t really be arrived at and used without a thorough understanding and knowledge of the language. As such, I either clam up and play or utter what I know sounds queer.
Although I was generally enjoying playing with these people, I was starting to wonder if there was any point to our practice, some sort of event that we participated in or something like that. Finally, they tell me about a tournament that we were going to be entering. I was excited to see how it would go, though my expectations remained a little low. I was sad it would be taking place one a day in my three day weekend though, since they usually provide the only opportunities to get out of the prefecture. I figured though that this was something I should definitely take part in, even at the expense of doing much more exciting things.
In the end, my hunch about how successful our campaign would be played out as expected, we lost every match by about 10 points. I was keeping track, and I can say with confidence that I wasn’t the cause of most of the unforced errors though. While our friendly games are generally pretty competitive and physical, these matches were actually well below our standards. I would attribute our losses to no one playing into each other’s strengths. For example, I can jump high and attack very well if the ball is put in the right place. If they took advantage of that we would have certainly been a bit more competitive. It’s not like I can really say to just feed me the ball more, so I just let things remain at the status quo and accept our fate. And again, I don’t have any mind to actually work on my game at practice, so I don’t have any reason to complain. After our express departure from the tournament ranks, we all filled out and got on with our normal lives.
One of the things that much of Japan participates in are year end parties, call a bonenkai. These take place in every work setting and also among different groups and circles of friends. I always go to at least one of my school bonenkais, and have also participated in my taiko one in the past. This was my first year with the volleyball crew and I was very much looking forward to it. As I’ve said, these are a really lively bunch of people but because of the nature of our time together I’ve not really had a good chance to connect with them. Nothing better than food and brew to facilitate some conversation though. I was also encouraged to invite Soeng along as well, which is nice.
Here was the boy’s table. We were invited to bring our own drinks, so I made some sangria for everyone to try.
The evening started a little bit slow, and Soeng and I really had to work for attnetion. We were located between the boys and girls tables, so they seemed entirely content to talk among themselves and had we not made some very intentional effort the night would have surely continued like that. Usually in these settings people are always more willing to initiate conversation with us lowly foreigners and also take our inability to speak on par with the natives – they weren’t doing that. Once we got settled in a bit more, and found some liquid courage, we managed to overcome that though.
I was eating a sort of pork flavored gelatin in the picture above. It was really well seasoned and had some onions in it too.
All of the food that came out of the kitchen was excellent. In addition the dish above, we also had sashimi bowl that had raw whale, roe, fish and, and squid. There was a platter of some other bit sized treats, a soup and a tuna and rice donburi. I was fortunate to suck up all that they others were too full to enjoy.
The raw tuna and egg donburi. I like to mix it up and add a little soy sauce.
It was nice getting to know everyone better and laugh together. It was also really cool to have this chance at the local sushi restaurant that I had long been wanting to check out. I definitely plan to come back here some time as both a standard patron and hopefully to volunteer as a sushi chef. I got to talking a little bit with the owner, and she didn’t make it sound like that was an impossibility, so here’s hoping.