Friday, April 22, 2011

Ninja Spider

Last Saturday, while cleaning out our closet for items to donate to the Spring Festival flea market, I opened a box to discover Ninja Spider and promptly had six kinds of heart attack. Why? Firstly, Ninja Spider was huge. The picture below shows him next to our air conditioner. The gray square is maybe between a quarter and a half dollar in size. In my rough estimation, this makes Ninja Spider about seven feet across.

Second, Ninja Spider was FAST. Lightning fast for his size, displaying a wanton disregard for the laws of physics, which, come on, people, are there FOR A REASON. He was the freaking LaMarr Woodley of spiders.

We got out the vacuum, because my preferred tactic for eliminating creepy-crawly things involves me being about six feet away. I discovered something about my husband the day Ninja Spider invaded our home: Justin hates spiders almost as much as I do. It is very difficult to kill a spider when both of you want to be six feet away from it.

In any case, the vacuum was a strategic error. Our vacuum does not have the kind of suction it takes to pick up Ninja Spider, who probably weighs in around fourteen pounds, and also was way too unwieldy to follow him as he zipped around the closet, clearly laughing at us in spider language.

And then he vanished.

I took everything out of that half of the closet. Linens, boxes, you name it. I took them out and shook them out, and no spider to be found. You know the old "What's worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm." joke? Well, I've got the new version. What's worse than finding a two-inch spider in your house? Losing it again.

We told ourselves he'd gone out whatever fiendish way he came in, but clearly he was just lulling us into a false sense of security. Two nights ago he came back, in a different room, just to prove that he could. Justin went at him with a flip-flop; he darted behind the AC unit. We tried everything to get him out, including the blow dryer, to no avail. You could hear him making raspberries at us and lighting up a little spider-size cigar.

Fine, we said. You may have strength and speed on your side, and probably brains too. But Justin and I are teachers. We have patience. And thus the siege began.

It was not too long before Ninja Spider got cocky. He came out again, nonchalantly posing for the above photograph, which he clearly thought would become a family heirloom in the same way Roman families might have kept profile stone carvings of Attila the Hun. Justin went at him again, this time abandoning the flip-flop for a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. As a read, he found it disappointing. As an arachnicide, it also failed to deliver. Ninja Spider was off like a shot, but we were in hot pursuit.

For a dark moment, we lost him. Then, there he was, in the upper corner of the tatami room next to the porch door. To show respect for our worthy foe, we opened the door a crack, enough for him to get away should he desire. But Ninja Spider's bushido warrior code must have called on him to die honorably in battle, and he refused to retreat.

Thus it was there, in the corner, near the bamboo panda wall scroll and above the breadmaker, that Ninja Spider met his Commodore Perry, in the form of me and Justin's hardback copy of Sebastian Junger's War.

Ninja Spider, you were a mighty foe. Here's hoping you do not have forty-seven spider retainers to come after us to avenge you. Because after the first three show up, I'm probably moving.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fukuoka International School Spring Festival: Saturday, April 23, 11:00-15:00

This post has two audiences: Fukuokaites (Fukuokans? Fukuokabridgians?) and the folks back home.

For Fukuokizens: Come to the Fukuoka International School Spring Festival! This Saturday, the FIS community will play host to folks from all around, with a fiesta featuring home-made carnival games, eclectic performances, a raffle, and even a flea market. Ten percent of the proceeds from the festival, plus all the proceeds from the flea market, will be donated to relief efforts for victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami.

For folks back home: What do you think is the best way to attach a thumbtack to a little rubber dart? So that, when shot from a toy dart gun, the dart still flies straight-ish, but can pop a balloon? My current plan involves a hot glue gun . . .

Anyway, the festival promises to be tons of fun, even if the added burden of preparations have made life at FIS a bit hectic.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I think I'm learning Japanese, I think I'm learning Japanese, I really think so

It's surprising how little of the local language you learn when you work in English all day. The Korean we learned was purely functional: deciphering menus, ordering food, directing taxi drivers. Our Japanese has been going that way, too. You learn what you use, and you lose what you don't--and up to this point, we really haven't had many opportunities to practice anything but the most basic Japanese.

That's why Nana and I have signed up for some weekly lessons at a local language school here in Fukuoka. We're hoping the shame of coming to class without having done the homework (teachers seem to be more afraid of this than students) will get our butts in gear. Then in August, if all goes well, we'll take a couple week-long intensive courses between the time we get back to Japan and the time school starts up again.

With luck, this will mean we don't go through our second year in Japan as haplessly as we went through our second year in Korea. We'll see!