Monday, June 11, 2007

Orientation Camp

Life in the University proceeds apace, and so it becomes necessary half way through the semester to go on the Faculty of Science Orientation Camp, 2 days of ... orientation ... at a ... camp ... in the nearby Sanbe National Park (pictured).

Sadly for me Japanese society has many secrets, many of which I have not been let in on. I thought I was going to a weekend of drinking, playing frisby, long walks, and dawn raids on other peoples' dormitories with hoses. Isn't this the Universal Nature of Youth? Not in the society of tsudoi. I shall share the outline of my weekend of orientation, but the weekend was full enough of diversions and revelations that I have chosen to put some of them in separate posts, which shall be laid out after this one.

On Saturday at 9am I arrived at the University to catch my bus to Sanbe. I was greeted with an envelope with random numbers in it, which I pulled out to reveal my seating arrangement on the bus - ookii 11-D, seat 11 D in the big bus. My room had already been arranged - room 219, with Gosuke (a fine chap from my lab), Mr. Ryugenji ("Dragon Seeing Temple"), and Mr. Watanabe (a returning graduate who now works for NOVA) (We are seniors). Gosuke (and this is relevant later in the story) was to be our room leader. The bus left promptly at 9:30, everyone aboard. Punctuality is a strong point of Japanese life, and beyond fault.

On the bus we all had to introduce ourselves to our fellows. We were given a name badge to wear, which included a brief space to write our "PR point". Mine: blank. Gosuke's: Yesterday's enemy is today's friend. His friend Tamadani's: "A splendid person?" So on the bus we chatted but I slept, because I was sat next to a very shy girl and, let's face it, when you can barely count to 10 there is no point in belabouring the introductions is there? We also played bingo, but I didn't win. Then we arrived at Sanbe, and so commenced the Orientation Camp.

The very first thing we did was ... shuugo!! I.e., Gather! Everything Japanese people do as a group starts and ends with Shuugo. So we all filed into a big room and sat down to be given an introduction to the Sanbe holiday camp, which has four key points: 1) greetings (always greet others in the camp); 2) self service (you have to do everything for yourself); 3) take your rubbish home; 4) time - dinners and such like are on a strict schedule. So we were shown the timetable for the day, with dinners set out on their strict time table and at the beginning and end of the day this mysterious phenomenon, 20 minutes of cleaning (including the toilets!) preceded by 20 minutes of ... tsudoi! I didn't think about it at the time, but it was there, waiting for us...

So then we gathered again, before setting off to our rooms. We collected sheets on the way and made our beds, and then we went to lunch, which was awful but involved an excellent regimented hand-washing process (including alcohol sprays!) beforehand. Then we had to do the actual work of the camp. At my last orientation camp, work was an hour long talk about what could be expected of uni. Not so here! The work was actually really tiring, tiring enough to be put in a separate post.

After work was the allotted time for dinner (again, awful!) and bathing (an interesting experience, never so bad as one expects, and again posted elsewhere in detail). Then came the drinking, which I have also described separately and which lasted (in the case of people other than me) until 5:30 am. At least some of my fellow students were rushing hand over mouth for the bathroom before breakfast, so I think some were up for a dire second day.

The second day started in an amusing fashion, at least for those of us not puking. I have described the details of our arisal and cleaning in the post on tsudoi, because really they aren’t separable. My confusion was not helped by my foggy head after very little sleep, but I think I survived my brush with death admirably, and was able to present myself at breakfast without too much risk of embarrassment. From there it was a mere hour and a half at breakfast, and 2 hours of (still) stupidly banging my head on the arse end of an induction problem which I would solve in 5 minutes the following day, and then it was home and hosed – we left Sanbe 3 minutes late, with me in exactly the same bus seat I arrived in. And I think 3 minutes late is pretty good when you have to round up 110 hungover college students.

So that, dear reader, was my Orientation Camp, which has left me truly disoriented and discombobulated, and completely at a loss as to anything. I think I was meant to meet everyone and generally relax with them, but this went the way things always go with me – everyone now knows me and knows my name, and will remember it because they always do; and I didn’t even hear 90% of their names, and the other 10% sounded like “Sshhshhhnn” or I forgot them straight away (I could do a whole post on how hard it is to even hear people when they say their names in this country, let alone understand them – Japanese has a strange rhythm); so now everyone is saying hello to me and, to confound it all, I met them properly at the drinking binge, which was after the bath, so everyone’s hair was floppy, and I tell all these 18 year olds apart by their hair, so I can only remember Tamadani (who told me his first name 3 times, but buggered if I can remember it or if I even caught it); because his hair is dyed, and everyone else was just floppy. So there you go. 100 more people now know that I’m a big rude red faced foreigner with a tattoo and a ***** dick who is always late, doesn’t attend compulsory pep talks, and can’t remember their names.


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