Though many of you might want it to. Well,  as you already know I am back, and now my writing is in full force, bringing you  more silly adventures from the land of Nihon. In this venture I talk about  the New Year's Party and other New Year's things, a medical examine, and other  tidbits. ------------>Well before I left, as many of you know, I  spoke of the bonenkai (which is the party for the old year), now comes the  shinenkai (party for the new year). So one happy evening last week my  Board of Education walked from the office about a quarter of mile in the  freezing cold to a restaurant, where it rented an upstairs room. Of course  I was the only Westerner there and it became rather obvious in the following  event...the choosing of what seat you have which is done by lottery. The  big question was "Who will be 'lucky' enough to sit next to the  foreigner?" Luckily for me it was one of my officemates and the night  was pretty fun. A couple interesting things to note. One is the fact  my chopstick expertise is unequalled except when I am in public. This fact  was especially true this time. A good writer would set the stage...an  average writer tries to...so here I go. Picture all these little dishes in  front of you with lots of strange food (this description is like the last  email)...one of the little bowls is a dipping sauce for the items you pull from  a kettle looking bowl in the center of the table. Okay, so I take a rather  large item from the kettle and before it gets to the comforts of my dish it  slips from my sticks and right into the sauce causing a splashing effect that  not only covers me put all my officemates within a 3ft radius...oops.  Still this little event didn't hinder one lady, being translated through a  friend of mine, to say that she REALLY wanted to talk to me, but that she was  too old (40), married, and didn't know english...uh...okay.. Afterwards some of  us went to kareoke where, of course, I was obligated to sing...and my direct  boss, who is normally pretty anal, got extremely drunk...he almost passed  out...so since then he treats me a little better...so far. In other related news, I went to a New  Year's festival down the road. In this festival Japanese beat drums to  scare away "bad birds" that would try to sabotage the rice  harvests. The highlight of this is the fact they let me hit the drum...I  didn't know that hitting the drum would cause such a backlash because the  drumstick went right from the drumhead and into my head causing quite a  laugh...I think I might even have that on tape. But what I didn't know  about drumbeating I quickly learned in the next event. This event was  pretty strange to me. Japanese crowds gather around a group of 5 or 6  people, who begin throwing oranges into the crowd. The people in the crowd  fight over each orange as if it's McGwire's Homerun ball knocking over everyone,  women, children, in the process. Well I learned why this is so  important. The Japanese pick some bad year in the past (maybe a bad year  for rice harvests) and "transfer" it to the orange and throw it...the  people who catch it then will have a lucky new year. So after hearing this  explanation I decided to use my baseball skills, my height and weight for an  advantage to catch these flying orange luck givers. Any Japanese within  10ft of me didn't have a prayer of catching a thing...and after 6 oranges I  thought someone else might need the luck...and I wanted to film this. As I  pulled out my camera and was ready to film, an orange came flying towards me and  in protection mode I caught it...and it splattered all over me...what fun.   Also last week I got another haircut and  when I left, the barber's wife gave me this stick with these little colored  balls on it...I went out not having any idea what this was for and decided to  eat one of the balls...after a bite it occurred to me that maybe this wasn't  supposed to be eaten because it tasted like wax. I found out later that  they are in fact riceballs to be eaten after you roast them over a fire, hence  the stick. Well that was after I broke the stick in half and stuffed it  into my car trunk with the idea I would stick this thing in the yard..ala pink  flamingos...glad I didn't do that. ------>Every year every Japanese gets a medical  examine...so what you ask? Well I did it today. You go across the  way and this place is set up much like the Red Cross with blood donations and  you carry your form with you and wait in line with all the other people...male  and female. Going from one station to another you do your height, weight,  blood pressure, blood test, eye check and my favorite...the urine sample...at  least I was able to go to the bathroom for this because nothing else was  private. Also I waved the X-ray which is given in all cases except for the  foreigner who really would rather not have his body exposed to cancer causing  radiation (I don't really think this but I still didn't) unless he has to...so I  didn't. ------->Went to Nagano, the place of the Olympics this past  weekend. Saw a castle and a shrine...pretty cool stuff. One thing  though was travelling back in the mountains...why is this bad? Because  Japanese don't believe in snowplows and the ice was pretty bad both up and down  these steep slopes. In honor of the Olympics, I thought about maybe using  my '87 Honda Civic as a bobsled, but then it donned on me that my brakes need  replacing...maybe next time.  ------>I just went to an award assembly at one of my jr  high schools. This school has the second best ping pong player and brass  band in the prefecture and the best boys relay team in all of Japan!!!! What  talent ---------> There are other things I want to mention but  this email is long enough as it is...so I will save that for another  time... Hope all is well with everyone....HAPPY NEW  YEAR