Saturday, 26 May 2007

Flyers? Japanese? Kickball!

My, what an active few days; there’s been the standard rigmarole of work which never fails to keep one buzzing of course, but this week I had things shaken up a bit by the beginning of a series of trips down to the local university to do ‘promotional work’, ‘promotional work’ in this case is a super-secret codephrase that translates to ‘hand out flyers’. Ok, it’s not exactly what I imagined myself doing when I was riding the plane on the way over here, but it’s actually kinda fun it’s own way; I mean, you nod, smile and say ‘Hello, how are you?’ about 48 zillion times and shove flyers into the hands of university students. Personally I’d prefer to be giving out tissues, because that would be uniquely Japanese, but hell I’ll take what I can get, and a bit of overtime never goes astray right?

I finally went to my first Japanese lesson on Friday too, well at least my first Japanese lesson that actually involves sitting in a classroom and doing exercises; it’s not like I never get a chance to practice after all. It was fun, I learnt all about introducing myself and saying basic stuff like ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, which was nice because I already knew most of it, so I felt like I was doing really well. I’m sure it’ll be harder next week though. It made me feel slightly guilty about my paycheck too, I pay 500 yen for a months tuition by dedicated volunteers who come in on their day off to help poor people like me make their way in the country. That’s genuine altruism yo.

It’s been a week of firsts, I also went to my first AEON kickball game this weekend… that’s right, kickball; that game we used to play in primary school. It’s back baby, laced with an attractive new coating of beer and karaoke after parties. Anyway, I’ve decided that kickball is indeed a fantastic sport and I’ve decided that my co-workers are all ultra-cool. They must all have hearts of gold to give me a standing ovation for my inebriated rendition of ‘In the Navy’ (a song, I wisely avoid back in Sasebo on account of the local demographic). Bonus props to Mitsumi too for letting me sleep on her floor instead of Fukuoka central park.

Katy and Mitsumi on the field of kickball glory (otherwise known as Ohashi Koen) representing the US and Canada respectively. They both kick balls most admirably.

Best of all, my travel was all paid for, on account of my visa needing to be re-designated; ok, so sitting in the immigration office is never fun; but I’ll take my breaks where I can get them, besides it gave me an excuse to hang around and shop for the rest of the day, which is something I never really get sick of in Fukuoka (wooo! All you can eat engrish T-shirts!)

Go team Kareoke! Singing, dancing, teaching English... is there anything we can't do?

So by now obviously I’m kinda wiped, and yet I have to get back to work tomorrow… yike, oh well… maybe watching ‘Columbo’ tonight will refresh my tired brain… he’s even more hilarious in dubbed Japanese!

Kick on world,


Sunday, 20 May 2007

Goodbye Spencer, Hello Telecomunications.

It was both a sad and joyous day today.

Let’s get the sad part over with first: Spencer is moving away from the ‘Bo to the greener (greyer?) surrounds of Tokyo and tonight was his going away party. Of course the party itself was significantly rockin’- we went to the local sports bar called ‘Dreamers’ and indulged heartily in all manner of food, beverages and socialization. It’s always really nice to get everyone together in one place, and while It’s sad to see Spencer go, it was cool to meet some new people too, there’s a married couple called Jocelyn and Craig from California and a very funky young lady called Milani from Utah; I look forward to introducing them all to the pleasures of karaoke, pachinko and binge-drinking.

Spencer with his adoring admirers; we'll miss ya man!

It’s kinda weird not being the ‘new guy’ anymore, but it’s cool to be able to help other people and watch them get settled in. It reminds me of the wonder I had during my first few weeks; in a way I’m a little sad that going to the supermarket isn’t an adventure anymore, but I guess it does save time when you don’t have to stop and take pictures of whatever crazed mascot is on the instant noodles this week.

My big exciting news is that I got my Alien Registration Card, which means Wooooo! I’m all legal and the government has deemed me worthy of the ultimate responsibility: cell-phone ownership! No more trying to organize my social life with a notebook and e-mail, yay!

I went somewhat silly in my excitement and walked into the nearest DoCoMo and grabbed the first phone that caught my eye; I ended up with a Foma SO703i as advertised by some J-pop starlet with alarming regularity on CNN. As befits any piece of technology on this island it’s so ridiculously feature heavy that I live in constant fear of launching nuclear missiles at Russia when I put my phone on silent. Seriously, it makes video calls, reads barcodes, gives GPS information… and the best part, it smells. Seriously, it comes with a frickin’ ‘scent card’ so when you’re talking you can smell lilacs. Uhhh… I wonder how long it took the R&D folks to think up that one.

My phone, complete with its 'aroma card'; it scares me that it probably has more processing power than the space shuttle.

Yeah, so anyway I’m back in contact and I spent a good part of today thumping all the numbers and e-mail addresses (‘cause SMS is soooo 2 years ago) that I had written down on a collection of post-its into my shiny new toy. In case you hadn’t noticed I’m pretty pleased. Now all I need is a set of ridiculously gaudy cell-phone charms and I’ll be set.

Stay in touch world,


Tuesday, 15 May 2007

All that Glitters is not Golden Week.

*Sigh* well, holidays can’t last forever; and the weekly rigmarole of work has officially returned, not that I’m complaining… much. It’s kinda nice to have the structure back in my life I guess, the students are nice and I have an excuse to eat lunch at the worlds most awesome burger restaurant around the corner from work (it’s called ‘Big Man’, and it serves these deep fried cheese balls which are quite frankly probably the most awesome creation since the inclined plane).

On the downside I have to wear my suit again, and I have to take off my jacket and battle kids and their steadfast reluctance to articulate vocab words again, and I have to listen to listening exercises that sound like awful 80’s sitcoms *again* . Oh well, such is the life of an educator, maybe I just should have picked a cushy job, like military service where you get to wear awesome always-in-fashion camo all day, and the hardest thing you have to do is dodge a few IEDs in Fallujah… I know I’m right because a marine I met in a bar told me so.

Still, sometimes the perks are cool; take this Monday for instance, when the company kindly paid for me to go down to Fukuoka and drink premium beer with a gaggle of supermodels in a hot spring.

Oh yeah, that was just the dream I was having last night before I rolled off my futon and into the harsh grip of reality, a reality that still involved Fukuoka, but replaced the rest with business garb, long bus rides and a long conference about the company’s upcoming self-study campaign (which basically involves us trying to convince our students to buy stuff to help them study at home more).

While I’m skeptical about the campaign (sheesh… how much time can a person spend repeating after a CD before their brain melts huh?) The conference was actually pretty cool if only because it gave everyone who joined AEON Kyushu in the last few months the chance to meet each other and swap e-mail addresses; I got to go out to lunch with Christi and Lauren again, and I met a bunch of really cool people too; I signed up to play kickball in Fukuoka on the weekends (even though I probably won’t be able to make it that often). That’s pretty awesome since I might get some fitness time in too; although melding the kickball with beer will probably act to balance things out.

It was also cool to get a chance to sit down and get some quality time with Chihiro (hell… there nothing like four hours of bus riding to encourage story-swapping; boredom is everyone’s common adversary). Again I’m impressed by her charming accent, and it’s nice to know there’s one staff member that won’t go ‘ehhh?’ when I say ‘zed’, ‘flat’ or ‘petrol’. Bloody colonials… they’re taking over the world I tell you!

Today's photo features signage from the local loan provider. A bold counter to those who claim there is no truth in advertising.

Right, so I just wandered in, it’s past midnight, and even the fact that I just earned a hundred and something thousand yen worth of overtime for sitting and listening most of the day can’t raise my spirits over the fact that I have to start a working week tomorrow. Ergo I choose to collapse on my futon.

Goodnight cyber-readers,


Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The Eternal Placeholder Post of Slackness.

Contrary to popular belief, Shaun is NOT dead. He is NOT lying in a bathtub full of sand on a Tokyo balcony.

Actually I've just been insanely busy... mostly the fun kind of busy, but busy nonetheless.

I'm gonna delete this post soon and put up all my 'saved' blogs just as soon as I can format them, hopefully that'll be around tommorow... or it might be on the weekend, depending on my work/party schedule. Japan's tough that way. :P

Anyway, sorry about the crazy delay... getting on the net was harder than I thought.

Much love world!


EDIT: I've put up about half of my archived entries... I'll try to get the rest up over the next few days, I have to go up to Fukuoka tomorrow for a conference but the rest of the story is coming ASAP I promise! Thanks again for writing everyone, I hope you'll all having much fun out there! :D

EDIT #2: Ok, so all my carefully scheduled plans to write, format and post everything I've so painstakingly catalogued are lying in ruins. Most of the problem stems from the fact that my weekdays are pretty busy and although I get the mornings off those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I'm hardly a 'morning person' in the classic sense, the truth is before noon I have trouble summoning enough neurons to make coffee, let alone format pictures and type witticisms. Compounding the problem is the fact that I've spent the last few weekends out of the apartment altogether; I have plenty of fodder for stories, and I try yo keep up with actually writing them all down, but I'm short on posting time. In any case thank you all again for visiting, commenting and generally being awesome. I really do appreciate it. More soon, truly. As some sort of minimal compensation I finally swapped a few things around in the lists on the left. Woo-frickin'-hoo.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Don Tak Who?

Hiiiii! I’m back! Did you miss me?

Phew, well at least I don’t feel like I’ve been slacking or failing to make the most of my precious vacation days, I can now cross ‘visit Chikushino’ and ‘attend Dontaku festival’ off my giant corporeally nonexistent list of ‘things to do in Japan’.

It’s really cool to feel like a tourist again, and I cannot overstate the newfound pleasure I derive from a protracted period without a tie knot in close proximity to my throat. It was cool to see Cristis apartment, since I’ve been pretty curious about how my place measures up; I must say I’m pretty jealous of her bed, not that my futon is uncomfortable, but I’m kinda sick of having to roll up my bedding during the day like some sort of nomad. Being in Chikushino made me appreciate Sasebo all the more, unlike my town English speakers and signage are not exactly prevalent, still that’s a great excuse to learn Japanese and jump straight into ‘immersion therapy’… plus Fukuoka is only a 15 minute train ride away, so that’s pretty nice. We stayed up and watched Garden State which was nice and homey, and far more comprehensible than the Crazy Restaurant Gang Show which was the televised alternative.

Speaking of Fukuoka, Dontaku was a pretty spectacular… uhh… spectacle. Think giant street festival with a giant crowd, giant floats and lots of other giant things. There were lots of people in their kimono, plus the Dontaku ‘extra’ of hats constructed out of flowers; very pretty, although I can’t imagine where they found that many fresh flowers around here. Maybe they grow them in giant underground vats or import them from China; that seems to be where most organic stuff comes from around here.

The most generic Dontaku photo ever. Ladies with flower hats. I could have posted pictures of 'Ms. Fukuoka' in her revealing outfit, schoolgirl cheerleaders or the 'Transvestite wedding' float, but this is what you get. Feel free to flood my inbox with complaints.

We milled around Fukuoka for a while afterwards, soaking up the atmosphere and occasionally pausing to munch on carnival food, some of which was familiar, much of which was unrecognizable due to it being deep fried in a fabulously artery-clogging fashion. So much for all that amazingly healthy Japanese food; heart disease and obesity epidemic here I come! Hopefully walking several kilometers around the city will help me shed all those extra kilos. Meh… who am I kidding? I couldn’t get fat if I tried.

Even fictional pirates love Dontaku! I put my Dontaku mask on this disturbing effigy of Mr. Depp for this photo. The masks were worn by comedians to hide their identity from the fascist Japanese rulers of ages past, so I think the connection is quite fitting.

We missed Lauren, due to a unfortunate mix up regarding her phone number, hope ya had a great time anyway Lauren! Next time huh? I crashed out at Cristi’s place again, we took a short tour of Chikushino in the morning and grabbed lunch at a local restaurant (woo! I got to work on my impromptu sign-language skills some more) then I hauled myself back to Fukuoka and jumped on a bus back to Sasebo. It’s nice to be back in my own space, even if I did come back to a pile of dishes waiting to be done and a lack of milk in the fridge. Oh well, such is the ugly underside of my bachelor lifestyle.

Hmmm… people are big on maids here, I wonder if I could find one actually capable of doing domestic duties and without all the usual fetish connotations? Nah… probably not.

All the best world,


Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Monkey (or is it Kyushu?) Island.

Ahhh… vacations, it doesn’t matter how old you get or what you do to procure sustenance in this crazy world, vacations still rock. Especially if they’re paid, and even moreso if you have some friends that are psyched to party.

You know what I was saying about having superpowers? Well it turns out that I do have amazing powers, at least of luck. I was out shopping when I walked past the train station and who should I bump into but Christi? She’d just come off the train and by some amazing stroke of serendipity I was walking past as she was standing outside the train station. Who needs the high tech wizardry of mobile phones (or indeed the low-tech wizardry of smoke signals) when you have impeccable timing and a ridiculous amount of luck?

Anyway, I took Cristi on the big tour of Sasebo (which wasn’t really that big since it involved two parks, a wharf, the shopping arcade and my apartment) we ate Mexican (Viva the nachos!) and then met up with Saori for a night of wanton indulgence in wine, food and TV; we watched three episodes of Queer Eye then switched to ‘High Fidelity’ (mostly because of my incessant heterosexual male whining). Great night though!

After emerging bleary-eyed from our futons the next morning we grabbed breakfast the window shopped for a goodly proportion of the day, I managed to convince Cristi to sample a Sasebo burger while the opportunity was evident, for a fairly petite girl she managed to wolf it down quite easily, props! We wandered around the market district for a while then went to a few 100 Yen stores (the same concept as ‘Cheap As Chips’) to prepare for Hannah’s pirate-themed birthday bash. Being somewhat cheap ‘preparation’ involved buying bandannas, although I splurged and bought a 100 Yen T-shirt and wrote ‘Arrrrr’ on it with a whiteboard marker.

We started off in Nimitz park with jelly-shots then moved up to Gela’s temporary domicile (which is a very nice house in the hilly suburbs of the city) for the majority of the night; again the craziness of the alcohol supply in this country astounds me, I walked into the lounge room and the first thing I laid eyes on was a 3 LITRE bottle of Smirnoff, the second was a 3 litre bottle of Jack Daniels, and after that a 5 litre box of sangria. I’m not even going to start on the ridiculous pile of beer and other assorted spirits scattered liberally around the place.

Anyway, enough about booze; let me tell you about the binge-drinking. We had about 18 people attend in all, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people; special mentions must go to Spencer from Canada for his fabulous piratanicalness and awesome wit (seriously, watch out Mr. Depp), Lauren from England who was kind enough to force many drinks upon me and drag me onto the tatami ‘dancefloor’ and Paco, a fine representative of the U.S. armed forces who gallantly stripped off his shirt and did the manly task of providing us all with substance from the barbeque. Kudos to you all!

Spencer, Hannah and Gela get piratanical; check out all that bootylicious booze! Just looking at it now makes my innards twitch uncomfortably.

We eventually wound up taking taxis back into Sasebo proper (mainly to avoid having the neighbors file charges of disturbing the peace against us) and continued on at another string of bars ending with the appropriately named ‘Treasure’ (which actually has a beach sand covered floor, how cool is that?) I made friends with an ancient Japanese man who taught me how to play crazy 8’s (or ‘baka hatchi’ as it’s known around here) even though he didn’t speak a word of English. It was 8AM by the time we staggered out into the sunlight and sensibly decided to call it quits; poor Lauren… she had to catch a bus back to Kuramoto at 12; still… such is life as an educator, and she’s a trooper.

This kindly old man taught me how to play cards, I gave him my 50 yen bandanna as a token of thanks; it suits him, don'tcha think?

Of course today was pretty much a write-off, consisting of obtaining food, minimum stamina expenditure and avoiding anything that makes loud noises. I feel pretty much fine by now though, it’s amazing what raman, water and sleep can do.

Tomorrow we’re going to go up and explore around Cristi’s place in Chikushino, then go back into central Fukuoka and meet Lauren (our Lauren) for the Dontaku festival, which I don’t have much idea about but am assured is quite a big deal around here. I’m just excited about being stared at by schoolgirls again.

Alright, time to go shove my gear into my newly-acquired Hello Kitty duffel bag. Back in a few days, stay happy alright?