Final days, part one.

Monday’s arrival marked the last full days of class I’d have, as well as my last opportunities to enjoy myself and be with my new friends.

As expected, being the only person in SE class meant I had valuable one-on-one time with the teachers. I worked my DS dictionary program overtime, looking up and writing down new words like mad. Also that morning, I spotted Taniyama-san, who told me he’d come to eat lunch with me that afternoon in Aoi Hall. We’d been batting around the idea of lunch or something (a “cola party,” he’d suggested, since he didn’t drink), so when lunch rolled around, I dashed off to Domy to get a few things. He and I sat at a smaller table and talked about random things, and when we finished, he leaned in and confided, “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had lunch here with a student.” I was pretty flattered by that. By evening, I came back from running errands and found Arnaud and Larry in the dorm; apparently, there’d been an impromptu gathering called in the larger common room, so I got a cheap six-pack of Barreal from the Mini Stop and headed down. One group ended up playing cards, while the rest of us sat and talked at another table. Javad came down to visit, and a new student from Poland, Mateusz, joined us. In addition, Setsu, one of the nicer people at the dorm, had come back from Taiwan, which pleased me. There was a lot of conversation and laughter; I wish that sort of thing had happened more often.

I had my final private lesson on Tuesday with Kawamori-sensei. She’d finished my requested-grammar list, and had asked me if there was anything else I’d like to know, so I gave her a few last-minute requests and suggested a review if there was any time left. She came prepared (as always) with the grammar, and I did my best to internalize them. I headed back to the dorm after that and relaxed in the AC, then left for the school again a little before seven. I had told Declan that for putting up with my barrage of e-mail questions (which, as I’d explained, came from my desire not to mess up, since every other trip overseas had been part of a preplanned tour and this one was all me), I owed him a pint or two. He’d gotten horrifically sick after a weekend tour in Nagano, which had delayed our meeting, but he finally found a little free time and was well enough to go on Tuesday, so I took an umbrella and headed to the office. Declan finished up and we headed out in his car, making a brief stop at a CoCo Ichiban for some curry powder (omiyage for a friend). He’s pretty knowledgeable about Japan and related history, so I learned a few things even before we got where we were going. He’d chosen a place he liked, a New-York-style, Irish-style pub upstairs in a building. We sat at the bar, got a Guiness each, and ordered: fish and chips for me (which he told me later was better than the original) and New-York okonomiyaki (beef and cheese) for him. We had a pleasant dinner, really; he’s a decent guy, once you catch him Not Busy. I paid for his Guiness and the nominal parking fee (since he’d done the driving on his free time), and he dropped me back at the Mini Stop. More new students had come by then: Alex, an English girl (bringing our English Girls Named Alex total up to two), and Winni, a Taiwanese girl who spoke natural English, fluent Chinese, and basic French and Japanese. I also managed to get a photo with the two Mini Stop guys who always worked nights together, courtesy of Javad, my go-to photographer.

Wednesday afternoon was my last Nihongo Café. See, when you reach SILAC’s SE class, you do something different in the afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday. Rather than taking fifty minutes for lunch and then going back for two more class periods, you instead go to the on-campus restaurant with a teacher and talk for two hours, with lunch paid for by the school (meaning you also get out an hour before everyone else). Not a bad idea, really, and only rarely did we discuss grammar points; mostly, we conversed normally. This time, my teacher was Takeuchi-sensei, a nice lady who claimed to dislike puns, but always laughed when I used them (and I used them on her as often as I could get away with). We had a really good conversation, really; she’s a fan of Naruto manga and some older anime, and we discussed some things she might like to see sometime. I got her e-mail address to send suggestions, and we ended up talking slightly longer than the allotted time.

Wednesday was also noteworthy in that I finally, after weeks of trying, got to meet my friend Shibata. Technically, he’s Takashi; I met him on Xbox Live via some other friends, and we’ve talked for the better part of a year, if not longer (though rarely play the same games). He’s been injured and recovering from surgeries since I met him online, so he’s not allowed to drive, ride a bike, or walk very far until he’s better. He also lives up on a mountain, meaning he pretty much needs automobile access to go anywhere. Thus, unless he can get a ride from his folks or his friends (all of whom are variously busy), he’s stuck in the house. Wednesday, however, he managed to get his mother to give him a ride in, and we met at WinG toWn (the closest place he knew). We shopped around the mall a bit before leaving to go to a Komeda’s (though a different one from where Jaime and I went). I got some sort of burger and talked with Takashi and his mother (who was pretty nice). I’d suggested he come back to the dorm to meet people after, and his mother had agreed to thirty minutes while she waited. He’d bought some donuts for that purpose, and off we went. Some of the people I’d hoped would be there weren’t, and a few new people I didn’t know so well were there, but that was okay. He enjoyed the socialization, and got along well (for half an hour, anyway). He even asked me after if it was okay for him to go back sometime and hang out with them after I was gone, and could I give them his contact info? I assured him it was fine, and that I’d see if anyone was amenable to that. (The donuts, by the way, went very quickly.) I walked him back out to the Sun Sports Club parking lot and said goodbye, then headed back in to get ready for my last real day in Okazaki.

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