The title reads 'Yukigassen no renshuu', which means 'Snowball fighting practice'. That's right, on Sunday, the かっちんこっちんイングリシュティーチャーズ (Kacchin-kocchin Ingurishu Teechaz, or Frozen Solid English Teachers), had their (our) first practice at this surprisingly complex sport.
When you think of snowball fighting, you think of powdery fields of white stuff, people with rosy cheeks, woollen hats and scarves, and innocent giggles, throwing handfulls of soft snow at each other. Not so in Japan. This competitive game has been refined here into a game of strategy, strength, accuracy and team work. Snowballs are shaped using regulation moulds, so that each ball is near-perfectly spherical, and all the same size. And they're bloody hard, being the sort of consistency that would land you in the head teacher's office at home if you were caught throwing one at someone. To minimise death and other nasty injuries, helmets are provided (since heads are fair game), but it can still hurt if you get sconed on an unprotected area! Since this was our first practice, we got a royal ass-kicking from the kids and teachers of one little Higashiiya elementary school, but a lot was learned and a lot of fun was had. I can't throw for beans, but I intend on doing some target practice this week!
After that, I went to hang out at Hannah's with Joe and Nate, and we watched a film called 'The Island'. Surprisingly good, and people like Ian Wilmut would do well to watch it before they start mucking around with human nucleai and rabbit eggs.
Nate and I had a good conversation over dinner: it's surprising how voicing one's thoughts to another actually reinforces them in one's own mind. He spoke about how, growing up in the church, certain things were simply off limits, no questions asked. Then, when he got to forming his own opinions, he did a lot that went against all that teaching, and how now, he is sort of coming back to something of a happy medium (but really, is there such a thing?). And it sort of made me realise that for the longest time, I have followed a very normal path. I went to school, got good marks, had a slightly weird episode involving a love of scissors and Nine Inch Nails, went to a world-class Uni, did some experimentation (but nothing that could really be called hedonistic), graduated, left the country for a few years... None of that is in any way special, or extraordinary. Not that I want to be special. But neither do I want to be sucked into a life where things are a given. I think Mum and Dad expect that this stint in Japan will get the travel bug out of my system: that I'll have had my three years of fun after Uni, and that when I finish in August, I'll be ready to go home, get a career job, and 'settle down'.
And it's just not the way I'm thinking at the moment. It sort of scares me: part of me, I think, would like to be the sort of person who has a very ordinary 9-5 life, with a couple of weeks somewhere sunny in the summer. Another part of me, which is bigger and louder, wants something a bit more than that. Looking round my dinner table last night, I was sitting with Americans, Canadians and New Zealanders. I love my community. I love the way it allows us to learn from eachother, and swap stories. It's hard for me to say all these things without sounding obnoxious, but I really feel that this three years has thrown my mind wide open in a way that simply wouldn't happen at home. Edinburgh is a great, cosmopolitan, international city. But I never felt part of an international community the way I do here.
That's not to say that I wish this was a permanent set-up. It simply can't be, not for me anyway, if I want to do anything else apart from this job. Which I do. Some people have made it their life. And that's great, if that's what you see yourself as. But not me. I DO want to have a career. I think what I'm trying to say is that I want to do things in my own sweet way, in my own sweet time. At the moment, I simply don't see myself living in Edinburgh, with the job, and the flat and the endless days. I am enjoying life too much. Perhaps living here has given me a skewed perspective of reality: people who come here are generally the kind of people who like to get things DONE. We are organisers, debaters, idealisers, thinkers. We are, I guess, over-achievers, and our way of life here nurtures that. Is it like that elsewhere? Or is this some sort of utopian society, where the lawyers, economists, teachers and politicians of tomorrow come to stew in the juices of other cultures, to learn, expand and bulk up their CVs, before heading back to the real world, to try their best to influence their own societies?
Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe The Zutons have it right.