Monday, May 23, 2011

Where'd all the good people go?

Sooo sometimes I look at the statistics for this blog because, you know, sometimes it's nice to check up on how many people have an interest in the insides of my brain, and the wonderful Blogspot also provides a summary of information on your audience INCLUDING the phrases that were typed into the search engine to arrive at your page; and today I noticed that one person sailed here on the question "Do the Japanese grow armpit hair?" and to that reader I would like to extend a personal and emphatic welcome because you, my friend, are not afraid to ask the hard questions.

Today I carefully locked Fancy Nancy up at the station, with her two locks, a U lock for the back wheel and a chain lock for the front wheel because she is pretty and fancy and will happily give anyone a ride who asks, so she has to be looked after; and then I carefully went to put the keys in my pocket but instead I dropped them on the pavement next to Ole Fancy and strolled, whistling Hey Soul Sister, off to school. And then, upon my return on the train, some 12 hours later, I fished in my pocket for said keys and failed to find them, and had a minor panic attack as I thought of Sweet Nancy remaining chained to the bike rack, rusting, weeping, deflating, for all eternity; and then I made my way through the station to FanNan's side where I found the keys, carefully deposited in the basket of the bike, with a Post It with a smiley face drawn on it.

My Conclusion:

1. Someone found my keys in their path;
2. Someone looked around for the owner of said keys, but failed to find them;
3. Someone then, resourcefully, tried the keys in the lock of the nearest bike and found them a match;
4. Someone relocked my bike and;
5. Put the keys in the basket and;
6. Presumably missed their train once the time was taken to find paper, a pen and artistic inspiration.

Sometimes I love Japan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Different Dimension

Now, I haven't been blogging very much. You shouldn't take this as a personal slight - it IS a personal slight, you're very boring to talk to, you don't hold up your end of the dialogue at ALL, you just shouldn't take it as one because that means more handholding for me - I have been very busy. I get paid ridiculous amount of money from the Japanese government, and usually what I do to earn this money is I turn up at a certain time, I warm a chair for a while and then I go to the supermarket and see if they have any new brands of cheese this week.

But my new schedule has me writing things, sending emails, pretending to be an Australian host family and explaining what the word sanitary means ("Don't wee on your cheesecake"). It has me learning how to interact with teachers with different teaching styles; explaining grammar to student teachers who tremble when they look up into my face; and manipulating the Japanese love of all things small and shiny to encourage science nerds to develop a love for the English language. The latter is achieved through the simple means of stickers, preferably shaped like llamas. The conversation goes like this:

"What is your favourite subject, Ryotaro? Ryotaro? What kind of a name is Ryotaro? How does one pronounce the syllable "Ryo"? My tongue can't DO that! I'm an English teacher, goddamnit, not a porn star. I shall call you Jason. So, Jason, what's your favourite subject?"


"Wrong. Yuki, what's your fav... Yuki? Yuki? Doesn't "Yuki" mean "snow" in Japanese? Yes? It's spring! I don't want to talk about snow! I fucking hate snow! So... Jennifer. Team Jennifer! Why isn't she married? It couldn't possibly be because she has no desire to wed, everyone wants to be married, obviously. Marriage is what makes us women, don't you think Yu - Jennifer?Wouldn't it be great if she turned out to be gay? And if she and Ange ran away together and left Brad alone with the Baby UN and his scruffy scruffy beard? Yeah.... Yes, Jennifer, what's your favourite subject? "


"Wrong again! Aren't you kids supposed to be smart? I mean, I'm looking at you and you look smart. Don't they look smart, Mr Sato? Yeah, you look smart. So many pairs of glasses! Such earnest faces! Jason, why are you crying? Someone get Jason a tissue. You there. In the front. Daijiro. Daijiro? Are you KIdding me? That's just a collection of sounds! Might as well call you Uhqucknoop. Lol. LMAO. Rofl... No - John. John. A good, honest name. John, give Jason a tissue. Now tell me. What's your favourite subject?"

".... English".

"$%&#!!!!11 Hurrah!!!!!! Here, John. Have a sticker. Have ten stickers! A llama for each finger! A herd of llamas... *Googles collective noun for llamas* ... Google tells me that is in fact a herd! How dull! But, you, John, you have a handful of llamas!... Look, Jason, if you don't stop that I'm going to rename you Judy. A little sexist humor for you there... Oh look I missed my "U". Look what you've done to me, all this Americanisation - remind me to have a conversation with you about sidewalks when you know more than four words in English... Powdered Sugar. Candy. Cotton candy. Monkey monkey underpants. What were we talking about, Mr Sato?"


(Very) Long story short: stickers = success. Also, your homework is to come up with a better collective noun for llamas. I feel like they deserve it. No one can EVER spell them. Double consonants UNITE.

The weather has shifted. I can feel it coming. I think I'm going to get 0.569 days of actual Spring and then Summer, like the pushy little bitch she is, is going to shove on through and thrust herself on top of me, dripping with humidity, heavy with heat. It's going to be... tactile. Anyway, I am trying not to spend too much time anticipating the sensation of breathing air filled with more water than most swimming pools, because I am caught up in the pure, un-sarcastic beauty of my first Northern Hemisphere Spring (I feel like capitalisation is getting away from me today):

The most famous image of a Japanese spring is, of course, the cherry blossoms. And, to their credit, their beauty has not been exaggerated. The trees themselves are a dark wood, almost black, with thin, crooked branches, and to see them wreathed in blossom and spray is to understand why winter might be worth it. The word most often used to the cherry blossom is "ephemeral", which sounds like something you might take for constipation (and I would know), and it's true: for a mere week, the streets of Sapporo were soft and sweet with blossom, and now, daily, I watch the petals drift.

I had a religious experience the other afternoon: Walking along along the streets of Motomachi listening to Katy Perry (K-k-k-k-kiss me) with the sun low and golden through the houses, I passed beneath a cherry tree at the same time as a sharp gust of wind swept through. I was showered with thousands of petals, in my hair, on my eyelids, caught on my clothes (This is transcendental / on another level). I was finding them in my bag for days afterwards. Moments like that, I believe in... Buddha (when in Rome).

I never picked myself as a nature lover (I don't think enjoying DKNY's Red Delicious really counts) but it turns out I am. My thumb might not be green, but my heart is a tulip. Or something. Buy me flowers, OK? Geez.

Anyway, I write this on a Wednesday with a belly full of sushi, the heater off for the first time in months. Father mine having just turned a saucy 60 years of age, I spent some time this evening Skyping he and his lady friend (also known as "Mum") (mine not his), convincing him that the stickers shaped liked bicycles that I sent him for his birthday were not intended to adorn his business suits. Incidentally, if you like me, but think sometimes I should put a fucking cork in it and/or write something of actual value to the human race, you might want to pop over to his blog. He writes with purpose and belief, rather than as a break between episodes of Gilmore Girls. Give it a try:

Right then. That's quite enough of that. I hope this blog finds you well, happy and satisfied. If you lack the latter, well, you can buy just about anything these days.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Something about being awesome and with Emily

So, apparently some people actually read this (hi Mum), because my two week time-out from writing caused, among other things, at least THREE readers to look askance, and a tornado in Auckland. Life and the universe has kept me busy, what with ups and downs and earthquakes whilst I'm on the toilet (TWICE in TWO WEEKS, what are the odds?!), but luckily I've got some new blog fodder to ram down your gullets, my sweet foie gras friends, because I spent the last two weeks in TAIWAN.


Well, because it was cheaper than Guam. Which is, I have been told, the poor man's Hawaii. Which should by rights make Taiwan the Hawaii for people who shouldn't travel. Taiwan should be the backarse of beyond. No man's land. Gore. But look:

I feel obliged to state that it was not actually this cloudy all the time - though the coud cover was not infrequent. It's just that when the weather looked like this:

I was too busy doing useful holidaying things like swimming and reading Neil Gaiman and seeing how much shoulder skin I could contribute to the diet of local insects before I left. Unfortunately, my personal holiday plans were shown to be at odds with those with whom I had chosen to holiday. This is probably my fault. I should have known:

Anyway, it turned out that their idea of a holiday was one in which you did things. Like climb. And cycle. Things that make you perspire. See, my concept of a holiday is basically spending as much time lying on my back as is feasibly possible within the pace of ten days without developing bed sores. So when I discovered that I was going to be expected to do something that required more exertion than ordering food off an entirely Chinese menu that looked like this:

... rather than like this...

... I was a little crabby.

Incidentally, Taiwanese food? Delicious. But you know the rumour about how they eat dog?

TRUE. But I really didn't expect to find it paired with pineapple. But I digress.

I was understandably a little trepidatious about the forced exertion. In fact, I behaved rather like this:

I am such a good travel companion. Seriously. Take me with you next time you go to Guam.

The more I looked into the whole "exercising whilst on holiday" concept, the more I doubted it. I mean, why would you fly thousands of miles to end up in a place signposted like this?

Nothing says fun and relaxation like killer bees.

Taiwan itself even seemed to doubt my mental fitness for its myriad dangers. Especially when it comes to taking short cuts.

Really? Dangerous? Because, I think, if I put my left foot there and sort of hook my knee around like this and kind of twist backwards as I jump, I can probably avoid falling hundreds of feet and having my remains painted across boulders as they are swept seawards and PLUS I won't have to climb that fucking awful hill you're pushing me towards... No? You don't think so? Go home you say? To bed? With a book? Oh alright then.

So I cycled up a mountain on a bike with one pedal and I hiked around the edge of gorges and peered into valleys and looked out for snakes before very nearly sitting on a frog and then I ate out of bowls shaped like toilets and then I walked some more and then I bought four skirts and then I climbed eleventy million steps behind two Taiwanese sisters who barely broke a sweat but grew afraid of the "dark" at midday every time the canopy met overhead and I avoided being killed by bees or poisoned by snakes and by the end of it all I looked like nothing so much as this:



Alas, the holiday is now over. Until I return for a brief trip to NZ in July, I will have a busy few months at school, interspersed with studying, as I have, in a fit of inexcusable madness, signed up VOLUNTARILY for a Japanese proficiency exam which presumably means I will have to develop some level of proficiency in Japanese. They should put that on the box.