The skies have been constantly illuminated with flashes of lightning, accompanied by rolling thunder, for the past four days. I rather enjoy the experience of seeing, hearing, feeling, and smelling lightning. On Saturday, we were on top of Mt. Aso, looking into the steam that was obscuring the view of the liquid hot magma when the air filled with static electricity (causing everyone's hair to stand up, but not really changing mine at all), and a bolt struck very near by. The coppery tang of ozone filled the air, and we were ushered off the mountain by the staff. Everyone started to cough and wheeze and some were running down the peak to their cars. The air had filled with sulphuric acid particles, and it was not pleasant to breathe in. As far as I know, no one was injured (every year, a few people usually die on Mt. Aso due to inhaling poisonous gasses).
The thunder and lightning have been accopanied by heavy, heavy rain. The rain falls so heavily that it is dangerous to drive because visibility becomes nearly zero, and rivers instantly form in the street, collecting into small ponds that can cause engines to stall. Tsuyu didn't skip this year after all, it just came a little late.
It's amazing to see how hard everyone is working to make my old house super-clean. I'm not bitter about this, but it pisses me off when I'm cleaning next to someone, and they say "Your old supervisor forgot to do this for you. What a shame" or "I betcha wish you had this new (fill in the blank) when you first moved in, huh?". By the way, the apartment was clean before everyone came over because Merin and I did it. They're just polishing everything up, and I think Jane(my successor) will be pleased with the results.
I'm using this opportunity to try and improve the apartment as much as possible, and to get them to buy things that I would have liked to have had. They seem baffled that I am leaving stuff behind. Like I said, it's hard enough just living in such a small, isolated community without having to worry about a shower that spouts only scalding hot water, a toilet that takes 10 minutes to fill up, a bathtub that spontaneously generates millipede spawn, a kitchen so cold that three inch long icicles form from the faucet, and going shopping for stuff that you need to maintain your comfort and sanity.
Thunder is booming in the distance, and the semi are buzzing in the forests as I am finishing this post. Tomorrow my successor will come to fill my vacancy, bringing my time here to an end. Merin is going home today, and most of my friends are leaving on separate paths into a future, each with their own tentative plans. Matt is going back to Huntington Beach, Joe is going to workin Colorado for a while, Jason is off to Spain, Joe Fingerhut and Michiyo are got married and moving back to the States, Yuka and Jorge also just recently tied the knot and will be in Guam for a year before moving to Texas, Kaori is now settled in Tosu, Kikuko is in Aso-machi, but some people will still be holding down the fort here (Mark, Dave, Jamie et al). After all of the recent goodbyes, I am ready to start up North in Kansai. I will be around in Ubuyama until the 5th of August, and in Kumamoto until the 9th. After that, it's off to Osaka to find work and a new pad.
By the way, I never posted on this but the Mayor of Kumamoto's speech is still fresh in my memory. Two weeks ago at the departing JET ceremony she gave a speech in Japanese, and the P.A. translated it into English. I was impressed by her stage presence and listened to her Japanese and the English interpretation, noticing the slight differences between the real and the translated versions. In the middle of the speech I was shocked to hear her say "Do you like Kumamoto? Have you had a good time here during your time on JET? I hope you have enjoyed your stay in Kumamoto, and that you will bring back the good memories that you have with you. You are all welcome to come back to Kumamoto whenever you like, and we will consider you as honorary members of Kumamoto-ken. However, if you didn't have a good time and don't have anything nice to say about Kumamoto, there is no need for you to ever come back here."
The last sentence was changed to:
"However, if you didn't have a good time in Kumamoto, I still hope that you had an interesting time over here." (after hearing this butchered version, I barely was able to supress my "Wha!" so that only the people sitting next to me heard, thank goodness...).
This was ironic as Japanese people are stereotyped as always implying things instead of just saying what they mean, and the image of a gaijin is of a person who acts or speaks before fully considering the implications of their actions. A Japanese person spoke her mind, ignoring a subtle approach and cutting through the crap. The American was the one that filtered out the real meaning and interpreted it into a polite, superficial flowery piece of fluff. Kumamoto is lucky to have her.