Sorry to post twice in a row with really long messages, but I haven't posted in a couple of days and I have a few other thoughts I want to get out in case I don't have time later.
I am with the Environmental Protection Section （環境部 - I forget the exact English translation at the moment） this week. I had a thorough explanation of what they do today, but it was rough going. Last week with the Fire Bureau was much easier because I have been really studying basic emergency management terminology, so I was able to understand most explanations (with the exception of pretty much everything said at Global Nuclear Fuel Japan) with a little help from my handlers. Today was a completely different ballgame. I am starting to realize how much weaker my Japanese is than it should be after 8 years of classes, but I guess I can't blame anyone but myself. I really think it is largely a problem of vocabulary at this point, so I was really proud of myself for being able to handle 'professional' level discussions on emergency management. I still have problems with basic conversation from time to time, but it was really cool to be able to 'work' completely in Japanese. Today, however, taught me that I still have a long way to go if I want to be able to completely work in Japanese. Then again, I am not sure if I would have completely understood today's presentation on emission controls and the monitoring of Nitrogen, Oxygen, CO2, and Ozone levels in the local air if it had been in English.
Anyway, since I didn't have a lot of questions today and they didn't have a very tight schedule for me, they sent me home at four. Tomorrow I am touring another recycling facility and I will be going back to Aicle for a more detailed tour on Wednesday. I am then going on 'Patrol' with the Precipice Protection Division on Thursday. They gave me a uniform and told me to wear dirty, comfortable shoes, so I think we are going to do some hiking on mountains. I will definitely have pictures of this to publish on flickr.
Next week I get to go back to the base because I will be with the Military Base (Countermeasures) Division （基地対策課 - I put 'countermeasures' in parantheses because they don't translate that part on the English part of the sign）. Should be fun. They are also giving me a day and a half of 'free study time', which I really need because I have been to so many places and have received so many materials (charts, reports, brouchures, etc.), that I really need to sit down for a while and go through it. I have a research paper to write about Japanese emergency management and I need to summarize what I've done, seen, and learned so far.
Anyway, if you have read all of this, good job （お疲れさま！）! If you feel like it, there's another long, poorly-written ditty on my trip to Gunma this weekend. I'll try to start cutting my posts down at some point, but I really doubt they'll get too much shorter... Gomen!