Sunday, 17 June 2007

Balls must be kicked, deportation must be avoided.

I was back up in Fukuoka for the last few days, it seems like I’ve been living up there on the weekends lately; Most of the trips have been company sponsored, seeing as I’ve had to take multiple trips down to the immigration office to change my visa over from my ‘working holiday’ arrangement (which equates to deportation after six months) to a genuine ‘work visa’ (which doesn’t). I don’t actually mind the travel, because it gives me a fabulous excuse (and a ticket) to go down and see everyone in the big city.

I’m less enamored with my time at the department of immigration, mainly because it involves sitting on a couch for hours, occasionally standing momentarily to hand in/sign some paperwork then sitting down again while some abstract bureaucratic process takes place. Thank god for mp3 players is all I can say.

Anyway, kickball still rocks; we had a totally decent turnout this time round which helped to round out the competition nicely, plus I got to meet some of the newest recruits into the company (Wooo! we’re not the greenest faces on the field anymore!) Actually we only got to play a few innings before the rainy season reared its head and dumped on us with a monsoon. Even that wasn’t too bad actually, we sheltered under a traditional/historical Japanese gate (Amanda mentioned that it is the oldest gate in Kyushu or something), and drank all the beer and spirits we’d brought. Looking back the sight of about 15 English teachers huddled under a historical landmark drinking beer and spirits should seem kinda surreal, oddly enough it really doesn’t by now…. In fact that’s pretty much par for the course. Travel changes your perspectives that way.

It takes more than torrential rain to stop kickballing English teachers from having fun! (From left) Cristina, Lauren, Ed, Katy and Mike take shelter under a historical landmark in Ohashi Park. Extra warmth and comfort provided by the Asahi breweries.

Yeah, so we sat, talked swapped war stories from work, cracked wise (and not so wise) for a while and then scurried off to an ‘English theme pub’ called ‘Morris’ in between bursts of drenching rain. All that good karma I’m building up by being a super-conscientious educator paid off, because (drum-roll) it turns out that the pub stocked Coopers (yes, that Coopers, my hometowns fabulous and much missed pale-ale). In a flashback to a similar experience during my time in London I went crazy and bought everyone a bottle and forced them to appreciate its magnificence. I closed my eyes as I drank and imagined myself back in my beloved UniBar. Then I snapped out and bought a Guinness; sometimes you’ve gotta be pragmatic y’know? At some point in the night we decided that playing Jenga would be an awesome idea. Needless to say nobody’s hand-eye coordination was improved by spending a night in a drinking establishment. Still, fun was had.

Guinness girls! (from left) Lauren, Mitsumi and Amanda with refreshing pints of Irelands finest. Can you spot the Coopers bottle?

I ended up crashed out at Katy’s place, again indebted to the hospitality of my friends, I spent the remained of the weekend exploring some more of Fukuoka and having fun (including making a phone call to my parents from the roof of the ACROS building). I met up with Mike and grabbed dinner at a charming isakia at the end of the day then I jumped on a bus back to the ‘Bo in time to write this and begin another work week. Fun time’s over, time to get back to grammar points and oxygen-depriving neckties.

Be friendly cyber-surfers,


Wednesday, 13 June 2007

NOVA means 'explosion'.

Big news in the Eikiwa world today; NOVA (the market leader in our industry) just had their wrists firmly slapped by the Japanese Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry, apparently over some fairly shady practices involving refund practices and whatnot. Naughty, naughty. More info (if for some reason you’re actually interested) can be found here.

So why am I posting about this? Well, I have a few friends who work for the local NOVA and while I’m sure the company isn’t gonna shut its door and retire its obnoxious half-bunny half-squid mascot any time soon, I AM somewhat concerned about the company going on a cost-cutting spree and putting them out of work. Oh, and it makes it look like I’m actually engaged with events around here instead of just looking like a booze-hound educator with aspirations of tourism.

The NOVA bunny. Dosen't it look like something out of the Cthulhu mythos? And yet the sight of this monstrosity apparently makes people crave an English language education... go figure.

Right, back to my oh-so engaging ironing; shirts don’t artificially flatten themselves y’know…


Sunday, 10 June 2007

Furnishings are the spice of life.

It was a big day for me today, a day that marks the end of an era; the sleeping on the floor era to be precise. Something finally cracked in me the other day when I woke up and found myself staring into the antenna of a reasonably proportioned cockroach. No more floor naps for Shaun, nuh-uh… one day you’re looking at a roach, next thing you’re waking up strangely full and picking bits of shell out of your teeth.

My solution? Cutting-edge convertible couch technology. A soft sprung surface of synthetic fabric supported by four stout posts that doubles as an effective television viewing platform and a comfortable place to lose consciousness at the end of the day. It’s a beautiful functional thing, and a grand monument to my first complete paycheck.

My couch, the new love of my life, a thing of beauty is she not?

Ummm… yeah, so that’s about it. I know it’s a little sad to write a whole entry about a piece of furniture, but hey… at least it’s a little different than my usual “I went out drinking with some people” entries, right? Ummm… not that I having been doing that, but y’know, I know it must get kinda samey.

Because he missed out last time this is Mike, posed here with the same snake juice (it's official name is Habu-sake by the way) that welcomed me to to this town. God-bless 'im, it's nice to have a friend to share your rituals of pain with.

Yeah, so I’m still alive; I have a comfy place to sleep and I’ve gone three whole days without eating a meal out of a convenience store; I don’t think life gets much better than that.

Sleep well world,


Sunday, 3 June 2007

New Friends, Jazz and Dental Health.

Yo cyber-readers! How’s life? Are you staying sane? Did you do something cool today? Life’s flying by y’know! Get out there and have a great day! Ok… finish reading this first though, thanks. ;)

Right, so I’ve been being social lately, I’ve taken to hanging out with a pair of girls who work for the local NOVA lately; Lani (who I’ve already mentioned) and her new roommate Lauren who hails from Devon in England and is brand new to this whole ‘Japan’ thing. Poor thing, she’s landed just as this island is starting to get genuinely oppressively hot; the humidity is killing me, I can’t imagine what it must be like for her.

Ohhhh! New girls! Lani (on the left) and Laura (on the right) finally some people who are even newer at this than I am. This is their first time in an Isakia, bless their little cotton socks. They've already got the ubiquitous Japanese 'peace for photos' pose down pat though.

To make life even more interesting, the company has delivered us an ET to help out with the workload around here (ET stands for ‘Emergency Teacher’ and is no way related to creepy wrinkly aliens just in case you were wondering). His name is Mike, he’s from California, has been working in Tokyo for a bunch of years and he’s pretty much the coolest thing that’s happened at work since I got here, you have no idea what’s it’s like having someone in the office who actually laughs at my offbeat humour.

We all went out for a bar tour last night which involved spending a grandiose amount of time sitting in various jazz bars and trying everything on the drinks menu. We talked about music for hours on end, swapped a bunch of wacky stories, solved all the worlds geopolitical problems and generally did the whole ‘gaijin bonding’ thing that this job seems to tacitly encourage.

Bizarre event of the moment: this week it's the Sasebo 'Dental Health' festival, complete with tooth-brushing demonstrations and an art competition where school children compete to render the best depiction of tooth decay. It's almost enough to make me floss.

In other exciting news (at least for me), I discovered a late-night supermarket about 10 minutes walk from my flat; this means my grocery shopping schedule is suddenly vastly more flexible, and it may save me from having to run down to Jusco during my lunch breaks. I’ve decided that I need to do a serious clear up around here, it seems like the change of continent hasn’t actually improved my housekeeping skills (big surprise) and the fact that I’m having to step over things on the floor to get to the bathroom is a major warning sign of the bachelor lifestyle taken too far. I’m all alone and maidless over here, without family or roommates to share my domestic burdens. Woe is plentiful.

Cool, clean vibes,