Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Man, the woman next to me has so far walked into the office after every class today chanting the same old crap about the temperature (apparently it's cold). In Japanese it goes a bit like, "samui, samui, samui, samui, samui, samui". I feel like eating a giant chicken tandoori and then offering her some of my gastric warmth, saying "there you go love, that'll sort you out". Honestly, it really does get so repetitive sometimes, the way the Japanese mutter to themselves through nervous compulsion.

I've done little of interest to anybody this week so I'll not keep you reading for too long. I've got a backlog of chores to get out of the way: passport renewal, student loans deferral, flight to London to purchase, bills to pay, camping trip to prepare for, English club to go to, Aki's friends to meet later at some Izakaya (small restaurant) near Sakurano. I'm really looking forward to meeting some Japanese people tonight though. This week there is no Japanese club so meeting Aki's friends tonight will be good practice for me. I sometimes practise with the teachers in my office, but all they do is complain about the temperature.

The only flight I have found so far back to England is one that goes via Kuala Lumpur, which will take 20 hours. Now I don't want to do that so I'm going on a hunt for some more after work today. The 20 hour flight was a good price and all the rest, but I don't want an extra 8 hours on the plane. And yes, I'm back at English club as the only member who feels compelled to go these days. I'm only doing it because I feel guilty that nobody else bothers. I'm going to wait until the new ALTs come this summer, rope them into it and then discreetly free myself from the joys of eating onigiris on a Wednesday night.

So, myself, Aki, Gavin, Mark and Junayd, and little old Monte are going to Yagen Valley Shimokita this weekend (Sunday) for a couple of nights sleeping in tents. Yagen Valley is renowned for it's onsens, one of which I've already been to. The weather is looking good for Sunday, 50/50 for Monday and rainy for Tuesday, which is when we are planning on coming back. I only hope it will hold out for the full duration so I can climb Osorezan (the local mountain). I want to do it while I'm up there, and I think Junayd was expressing interest at the weekend as well.

That's it. I've got books to read!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Not a great deal to talk about today. The weekend was pretty good, but it was a shame the weather didn't hold out for the cherry blossom knees up. I took it nice and easy yesterday; did a bit of reading and sleeping, watched a Jackie Chan movie, the usual. Then at 8.30 me and the missus went to Momotaro onsen as we always do.

Today is pretty easy-going. I was pissed off first thing because my supervisor keeps calling me luke san and luke sensei, even when I've already told him that I don't like it. One of these days I'm going to punch that silly grin right off his face, or just stop talking to him.

I've got another night of doing nothing tonight, yes another one! I have a new book that I want to read concurrently along with the bible. The book is My Past and Thoughts by Alexander Herzen. He was a Russian, and I've heard that he's very original and gritty.

I've got a class to go to now, if anything interesting happens to me over the next few days I'll be sure to write it on this page.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Mid week update. Nothing to tell anyone apart from that it's a beautiful day and the weather looks like it's going to remain good until Thursday. I came to school this morning with the intention of having a good read of all the topical websites I have bookmarked on my browser, and funnily enough I came across this one. It's interesting because it refers to this website, which tells us the sober truth about what is going to happen out there in the Middle East once Israel has found a final solution to the Palestinian problem. (Here is another interesting webpage that I found showing the mappage of Israel-Palestine throughout the years.)

I thought all this was really interesting as I'm currently reading The Bible and, thus, am thinking more about Christianity these days. It's a funny read now that I'm an adult because I kind of remember one or two of the stories from my childhood. I remember the stories being read to us as primary school children, but back then we didn't understand the value of religion in the slightest so they were placed in the same mental category as stories by J.R.R.Tolkien, or stuff like Dungeons and Dragons. Reading The Genesis, I still find it hard (perhaps impossible) to take such a narrative out of that mental category, but I've got a long way to go with the whole book - I'm still only on The Exodus, which is the second book of many. I've been told that The Gospels are more believable than the stuff of the Old Testament though.

Another funny thing is the many references to places that I've been to in Israel. At the beginning of the book Abraham (or it may have been his son, Isaac) founded the now modern city of Beersheeva, which was the closest city to me when I was living at Mashabei-sadeh. Hebron and some other better known places are also referred to in the early writings of The Bible.

So, what I originally wanted to say was that since I simply cannot subscribe to the idea of 'the rapture' because of real world convictions, I have decided to live it up here on earth while I've got the time. The Rapture, according to it's doctrine, accepts only true believers among those who get to be with God in the safety of Heaven and although I have tried to qualify these prophecies and the possibility of their truthfullness in my head, I have failed miserably.

In other news, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the local park is looking spectacular. Aki and I went down there last night for a bit of carnival food and to watch the old dudes from Iwaki village scream down the microphone and bang their drums. It was a good night.

Monday, April 19, 2004

On to a new week, and I've a feeling this one's going to be a bit more interesting than last week. Last week was really boring, culminating in an enkai on Friday night that I really didn't enjoy too much. For a start, one of the teachers who I sat next to was going on about visiting a strip bar afterwards, which I found a bit akward. I wanted to show him that I was one of the boys, and that I really have a liberal attitude towards things like that, but at the same time I didn't want to be the only foreigner among a group of drunk Japanese guys who would probably, by the end of the night, be asking me questions about the size of my chinpo. I also wanted to tell him that I don't tell lies to my girlfriend, but as he quite freely admitted that he was ready to lie to his wife I kind of felt that it would seem like I was placing myself on higher moral ground (you know, just to make him feel guilty).

I just want a quiet life.

That wasn't the worst thing about the enkai on Friday night. The worst thing was having to give a self introduction in Japanese, which I don't mind, so long as I am given time to prepare something to say in my head. Of course, I was told at the last minute, and even though I did manage to think of something that I thought was quite whitty, everybody else just sat there staring at me as if I was some kind of retard. 'Fuck you all' was what went through my head after that. Later on, one of the female teachers who sits near me came up and started talking to me like I was a child or a chimpanzee (exaggerated facial expressions, a totally false manner etc.) Now, I have come to the point in Japan where if I am confronted by somebody who shows me less respect because I'm a foreigner I simply start to ignore them. So, I started to ignore her and started talking to the strip bar guy again (he's actually a really good lad, and in all honesty I would have enjoyed going out with him and the other guys if it weren't for their childish overtones after a few beers.) Then one of the ladies who I teach with came over and spilt beer on my leg. She sat down and started asking me questions like "Out of the countries that you've visited, which is your favourite?" Of course she was designing questions so I would have to tell her what a fantastic and likeable country Japan is. So I said Egypt, and I told her I liked Egypt because of the wonderful people who live there. After that I went to Tamenobu to meet up with the other JETs. The atmosphere in Tamenobu was like it used to be, with lots of young people drinking and being merry. We, on the other hand, had a couple of beers and called it a night. There were also two dusty old guys in suits who sat next to us for some reason. They moved when the master found a young lady for them to croon to at a different table.

Anyway, on Saturday Aki and I went out to a restaurant just down the road from my place and left sharpish because the waitress was being incredibly rude. I was pissed off because I like this particular place; it has enormous portions and the interior is authentic. We went to another place on Kaji Machi eventually, which was alright. It wasn't the same atmosphere though. I'm also doing a different set of exercises now after being given the green light by my doctor and physio nurse. Saturday was also a rehabili day

On Sunday I got up early and walked up to the park to see all that was going on for the Hanami festival. It was a really good day weatherwise and the food was good. In fact everything was laid out like last years festival so I went to all the same places. I had a beer with my food and soon felt sleepy so I headed back to my apartment and fell asleep. When I woke up I was hungry again and I walked all the way down to Sapporo Ramen for a huge bowl of Chinese noodles. When I got back from that I decided that I needed an onsen, so I met up with Aki and we both went to Momotaro onsen. It was really good, as ever, and I enjoyed sitting in the sauna watching TV with the boys (Japanese guys who never talk to me), making faces and gestures of amazement at the TV because some stunt guy on a challenge-style TV show was opening beer bottles with a bottle opener fixed to his helicopter.

Now that's what I call entertainment!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Good news! The doctor has identified the beginning of my humerus' callus formation. This is good because I am now permitted to do exercises that I couldn't do before, and I can get my arm in shape for a bit of driving. By the time I'm ready to drive I should be confident enough for a slow mountain climb. I'm thinking of purchasing some weights, but as of yet I haven't seen any in the shops. I don't fancy toing and froing the budokan gym twice or thrice a week just to lift some poxy 2 kilo weights.

The weather today has been fantastic! I walked to the hospital, but because my consultation took longer than usual I thought I should get a taxi back to school. Not because I wanted to get back for a particular class or anything, I just didn't want to miss the opening hours of the school canteen. Man, that place continues to amaze me. Their curry rice is only 360 yen, yet it tastes like a million dollars, and the salads are tops too.

This summer, Aki and I were going to go back to England together for a short holiday, but the other day she told me that she can't make it because of her work. Her boss and the whole company that she works for are a bunch of w#nk*rs if you ask me. They have said that it would put too much strain on the rest of the workforce for her to take nine days holiday in July. That sucks, and it is something that has yet again thrown support to my opinion of this country as a circus where there are too many clowns. I will be going back to England alone now, thanks to some faceless guy in a suit somewhere in Tsugaru. Still, I'm looking forward to the beer, and seeing my family for the first time in a year.

Here's to another day of nothing.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Well, it was a pretty cool weekend. On friday night Aki and I went out to Kuroishi (Black Rock City - the name sounds a lot cooler than the city actually is) and met with Mark, Gabin and Shelby. It was a pretty cool night, which started off in a little izakaya and ended up in a strange little room in Kuroishi drinking brandy and singing the Japanese version of Young Man (YMCA).We stayed at Gavin's place that night and got up early the next day to drive home in some of the greatest sunny morning weather I've ever seen in Japan.

For the rest of the day I dossed around my apartment trying to sleep, watching a film, eating food, smoking the odd ciggy and all that other Saturday afternoon stuff, while Aki was out doing stuff in town - getting her hair cut, visiting an uncle in hospital, getting her winter tyres swopped with summer ones. At about 5ish we went off to Aomori for a few drinks with Nate, being as it was his birthday. We got to Aomori only after Aki nearly had us both killed because she wasn't looking at the road or the car in front, and decided to stay the night when Nate reassured me that I could have the bed and not have to sleep on the floor. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with the floor, but I didn't want to jepoardise the health of my arm.

The following day we went to Imabetsu and all the other places along the Northern Tsugaru coastal road. It was another wicked day, and we went to a few quiet beaches and picked up some stones and driftwood to take back to my apartment. I now have quite a few pieces of driftwood timber featuring in my apartment, offering authenticity over the crude modernity of the artex interior. I feel that I now have a proper Japanese space in my apartment, one that combines naff and mass production with aesthetic charm and maturity; the story of Japan.

When Aki and I got back I spoke to my parents on the phone and then we went to momotaro for an onsen and then to Darumaya (best ramen restaurant in Tsugaru) for the best ramen in Tsugaru. If the Pope really is Catholic, it was a good weekend.

Friday, April 09, 2004

It's sunny out today, and this morning I took a brisk walk to school. Today is going to be the last day of having truly nothing to do because classes begin on Monday and there's a chance I might get invited to one or two of them (wouldn't that be weird). I actually got one of the new oral communication text books today. It was handed out to the other English teachers ages ago, but it wasn't deemed necessary to give me one.

Yesterday I went to the hospital to get a measurement for an arm brace. The doctor was talking to me about it on Wednesday and he advised me to go in the following day to check one out. He didn't tell me, however, that they retail at 3 man (150 sterling) and that after the Japanese health insurance discount it would still fetch 8000 en (40 quid). The guy who was there to get me all fitted up scribbled the numbers on a piece of paper and looked at me. I said kawanai (I'm not going to buy it) and he began to look uneasy. I know in situations like this, where something has been arranged without the price being mentioned, it's just polite to fork out the money instead of refusing the goods. But yesterday I told the guy straight. "Money is non-existent" I said in my best Japanese, and after philosophising over my statement for a second or two he got the picture.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I went to another (welcome) enkai last night so I'm feeling a little bit poorly this morning. I'm actually typing this with two hands, which is remarkable considering I couldn't even move my left arm about three weeks ago. I've noticed a big improvement with it lately. I can raise it in front of me, independently, and I can raise it to the side (about 90 degrees). This probably sounds pathetic but it's a big step for me. At the enkai last night one of the old boys, a relic from years gone by, turned up with a head of blue hair. He must have tried to dye it himself but apparently it went a bit pear-shaped. Another funny moment was when the new Kyoto sensei got up to address everyone and made starkly noticable the aggressive twitch he's got with his eyes. He blinks like a maniac. It made me laugh because I used to get all sorts of twitches when I was a kid - hands, nose, eyes, mouth, chin, back, you name it, I used to twitch it.

I'm going to show some of the students a DVD today, since there's nothing else to do around here. Plus I've got a form to fill out and send back to England in order to dodge paying some of my student loans. If I get bored I can either study some Japanese or catch up on my bible class material. I actually brought myself (kind of) up to date with the material for bible class over the weekend. I felt guilty going to each discussion with no knowledge of the stuff we were supposed to be talking about, and sitting there saying "well, I don't know much about religion, but..." I've finally got round to reading the holy bible as well. I've been meaning to read it for ages, only I've had other stuff that I've wanted to read.

I'm going to start looking into flights back home soon. The thought of going to the Cathedral City of Lincoln for a holiday gets me quite excited, especially with Aki because I can show her all the historical stuff, and all the wicked drinking dens. However, the thought of living there makes me feel a bit depressed. That reminds me, I've been busy lately, preparing to become a Canadian by listening to lots of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, and looking at pictures of bears on the internet. This is what I plan to tell immigration when I arrive in the boat carrying all the gay couples going there to get married: "I'm not gay, but can I please live in your country cos I think it's great and I really like listening to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and I like bears cos I look at them on the internet all the time and I think French people are alright it's just france that makes them smell a bit funny and I like maple syrup and Irish people and seals and cutting down trees and red coats and mooses and mountains and everything so can I please live in your country and be just like you?" Do you think it'll wash?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Well what do you know, it's damn well snowing again. I had to walk to physio in it today and on the way back it had already settled as slushy stuff that made it really difficult to walk steadily. I've nothing else to say, apart from possibly leaving early again today. There is nothing going on at school, but I don't want to walk home just yet cos it's still slushing outside.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

It's official - I'm overweight. I had a sneaky feeling that I might be, but just to make sure I took a BMI test and found out that I am officially a burger boy. Well, it's not actually as bad as it sounds because my BMI measurement is 25.1 and the range of normal, healthy BMI is something like 19.9 - 25. 'Overweight' is 25.1 - 30, and 'obese' is anything over that. I was actually looking for dietary information on eating fish, since I don't want my disability (my arm!) to cause my weight to go up through lack of exercise. I've made it my mission to get back into fighting spirit by the beginning of May so I can climb the mountain. I'm determined to use my snow shoes at least once before the start of next season.

Today I had the chance to speak to my new supervisor and I talked to him about the new term. He seemed worried: "I think maybe my English is not good enough for the students at this school". "Do NOT worry about a thing" was what I told him. I think he thinks that the students at my school are budding English speakers - yeah right! I'm looking forward to teaching with him though. Maybe he'll invite me to more than one class a week. Anyway, he kicked off his supervisorship in good fashion by sending me home early. Good show Kanaya!

I'm listening to a lot of Radio 4 these days - Little Britain at the minute.