Monday, November 28, 2005

Borderlines....stupid borderlines

I lost my thanksgiving virginity on Saturday night at Jayne’s house. Ate mashed potatoes and a variety of other foods, except turkey because you have to mail order that stuff here. Maybe about fifteen people showed up for a pot luck dinner. Aine and myself pooled resources and made an enormous fruit platter, which went down well after the pumpkin pie and chocolate slice.

This weekend’s crazy stand out event was the extreme weather on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Purple grey clouds had been rolling in all afternoon. As we were leaving Kashima for Shiota they were swirling about real low, threatening a rain which held itself off quite nicely. I returned from Shiota by bicycle at around half past ten in the evening. The space between the two cities is farmland. Vast broad sweeping fields, flat for kilometers around, except for the odd tree covered hill in the middle. The main road runs to the side of all this farmland. I don’t take the main road though, as it’s crowded with traffic and pachinko parlors. I take the road that runs through the middle of the fields. It’s a good twenty minutes of riding from the edge of Kashima to the edge of Shiota. As the sun went down, the temperature dropped, we ate and drank and a heavy mist crept up over the plains between the two towns.

I wrapped myself up in layers of thermals set my headphones and slowly arced my way out towards the fields. The mist had matured into a full fog. I put some new batteries in my bike light the other day. It barley pierced the fog, like a thin silver guide rope as I turned the final corner, headed away from the city and out onto the plains. A car crept past me slowly, it lights confined into pools by the miasma surrounding us. Way ahead in the distance, the lone traffic lights at the intersection cycled slowly. The only beacon in the vast black, murky landscape, for there was no moon. Just stars, yet the fog eventually obscured most of them too. I pressed along, noticing now strange intermittent flashes of light behind the hills on the far horizon. Biking slowly to avoid puddles of freezing cold water I weaved my way towards the intersection. The fog cycled red to green to amber. As if I was trapped as the sole survivor of last dance party on the edge of the river Styx. I pushed off from under the light into the wall of glowing greenish black murk in front of me, thick enough to obscure the lights from Kashima beyond. It really was the kind of weather that you could let your imagination run away with.

I pulled over halfway down this one long stretch of road. I looked back, the traffic light now a faint pulse in the far distance. The kind of light you would run towards if being chased in a nightmare, but would never ever reach. I looked around. Nothing but swirling mist and the edges of the road on one side and the dirt of the field set two feet down on the other. A small pool of light reflected around me from the light of my bike. I had nothing except the traffic light to get my bearings from and was beginning to feel pleasantly disorientated. The light trapped me in a box of impenetrable fog a meter wide by a meter and half high. On one wall a faint light changed color. The need for a sword of some description was felt most keenly. I cranked up the music and set off, slowly following the road and avoiding shiny black puddles, waiting for the creatures to lunge out the dark and rend my limbs asunder.

This of course did not happen, but when one has spent a portion of ones leisure time playing computer games or reading fantasy novels, one finds oneself isolated in a far flung corner of the world, enshrouded in fog, one has had a few beers, glasses of red wine and Kahlua, the tendency is to push the fantasy as far as it will go.

Sadly, although I wanted it to be a small village where I could buy potions, armor and new magic spells, Kashima did come into view through the mist, I did return home safely, with no gold, magic armor or major experience bonuses. I went to bed, slightly miffed that, once again, the borderlines between our world and the world of darkness had failed to slip and unleash a horde of wild demons to plague the land. Stupid well defined solid borderlines.

I swear I will never find a good career opening.

It was 5 am. There was a bright white light in my room. The apartment was shaking. There was loud noise all around. Was this finally the moment at which I would be abducted by aliens? Had they at last sensed my willing eagerness for interplanetary contact to subdue the burning fear that mankind is alone and helpless in an infinitely large empty galaxy like a solitary, drooling child throwing a ball into a black room whilst slowly filling it’s undergarments with excrement all the while oblivious of its own stench?


This was not what I thought as I opened my eyes, although perhaps it should have been. Rather mundanely as the thunder woke me up I pondered,

Gosh, what an odd time of the year for a thunderstorm.

It was right overhead and had crept in sneakily just behind the fog, but fortunately for those of us who had been biking across wide flat open spaces on aluminum bicycles, it had held off its arrival until we were safely grounded. I opened the curtains and watched the lightning crash down, immediately following waves of dense heavy cracking thunder shook the apartment walls. A massive rain burst opened up, only increasing the amount of static electricity in the air, precipitating more thunderous bursts of white light above my apartment. Perhaps this disturbance would bring down those sneaky netherworld barriers? I would be better off starting here with my air rifle and black practice katana than out on my bike with only two beers in my backpack. Infinitely higher chance of surviving demon hordes. Eventually the storm died down and the sun came up. My head was pounding from watching the strobes of the sky show, but it was worth it.

Other people thought differently. My colleague, Hiroshi told me this morning at work he woke up and thought North Korea was attacking Kyushu. I asked him why he thought North Korea would attack the Fujitsu-Keisei area when there is nothing here but rice fields, schools and Sake distilleries. He replied saying maybe they had missed their targets in Fukuoka. I teased him some more.

Now it is lunch time. There are no demons, but there is a foul smell.

It’s lunch.

Poos and wees.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Take the children away now

My classes have all cancelled this morning and if it wasn’t for the DVD cooking in my drive at the moment I would begin to contemplate how long I could get away with playing games at the office. The answer to this, of course, would be as long as I bloody well pleased, but oh how they would talk about me when I leave.

Leaving Japan is going to be just as big a step as coming here in the first place. Already the past 18 months of financial security are beginning to drift away slowly as long term planning mode (career angst) is kicking in and forcing me to do something creative and interesting with my life. At this stage I don’t even know where in the world I want to live. New Zealand will be an option only if I can find the kind of job I am looking for. Either writing, photography or film work will be necessary to keep me in the country, if I get one of these kinds of positions then I will contemplate using my savings to knock of a significant chunk off my student loan. If not I will use them to catapult myself overseas to…not sure yet, but it will probably involve one of the very large cities where many of my friends have taken up residence in the past few years. More on this topic later.

Sometimes I grow weary of maintaining the ‘nice friendly teacher’ appearance. I love to revel in many irresponsible activities and if anyone in any position of authority here knew the full extent of my activities prior to Japan they would question their decision to place me as a role model for young people in their schools. For example yesterday I was tasked with conducting elementary classes. You have to be in the right frame of mind to deal with 25-45 screaming children. It is very rare for me to ever be in this frame of mind and I have to blatantly feed of the positive energy generated by the classes themselves to bring myself up to their level. This in turn means that I start all of my classes in very grumpy clown mode and eventually warm up to being nice. Sometimes. I will never ever take any job that deals with young children again, especially those who do not speak the same language as me. My patience for exploratory hands, screaming, jumping, flying bodies, dirt, scabs, measles scars and food stained clothing has worn out entirely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A lot less work

The period of intense business passed over us here on Thursday afternoon when I said the word ‘adjourned’ and ended the successful, hour and a half long seminar presentation myself and my co-worker had been holding for about 70 people in the Renaissance Hotel in Saga city. It was with a deep sigh of relief I settled back into my couch on the Thursday to ruminate on the end of 10 hour days at school, coaching preparing and teaching, and realized that I still had one more day of conference to go.

Overall the conference seemed slightly worse than last years event, but a full post mortem was performed by myself and Aine yesterday, so really, I can’t be bothered thinking about it anymore.

I visited Cybac for the first time on Friday evening. Cybac is a large entertainment centre. It has multiple floors which house everything from private rooms for you to play video games and sleep to pool tables, table tennis, karaoke, bars, and whatever else the modern Japanese person likes to do with their free time. You sign up and acquire a membership card and you are given an access badge. You are charged by the hour for the time you spend in their, but everything except the food and alcohol is free. You can walk up to your favorite video game machine, grab both player weapons and blast away for as long as you like. We played rounds of pool and table tennis, sang and then after that you will have to ask other people what became of the evenings events as I don’t remember.

Saturday morning I came to at Ollie’s, minus my last asthma remaining medication and with a keen urge to eat some food.

Last night I was walking to meet Fumiko at the train station. I was wearing my grey hooded sweatshirt and it was cold so I had my hood on my head. I was walking up behind three senior high school girls, my pace overtaking them as they were walking slowly, when one of them turned, saw me and they all fled to the train station. I continued walking to the train station and had to wait on one side of the gate until Fumiko arrived, with them poking their heads around the corner, watching me. I told someone at school about it this morning just to be on the safe side in case they decided I was following them to perform untoward acts.

I would call them stupid girls, but they were actually being quite smart about their interpretation of the situation. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Autumn. Nice

The sun creaks slowly into view these mornings and it arrives later and later each day. Every morning my house is progressively one shade darker on waking than it was the day before. Kashima’s streets are littered once more with the detritus of its tree’s. The sun seems to wield one tenth of the power it possessed a few short months ago. The other day while sipping plume wine in a park in Fukuoka a small bat flew down from the trees and flew in circles in front of me for a few minutes.

It’s the time of the year when I am asked on a daily basis if I am cold. Maybe I’ve mentioned this here before, but it’s such a regular occurrence when you don’t begin to wear sweaters and long sleeve shirts at the same time as everyone else. I just don’t feel the cold as much as the average Japanese person does, so I am still comfortable during the day wearing a t-shirt. This is out of line with the Japanese tradition of changing ones entire daily wardrobe into winter attire as the seasons change.

Lantern festivals at shrines. Thousands of intricately carved bamboo shafts with small tea light candles placed in the bottom are arrayed in huge designs. Personally I found them to be evoking of circular cityscapes. Walking into the hills in the dark and finding a line of lanterns on each side of the ground leading up into the dark of the hill side. Lights a thousand small creeping glow worms march upwards into the night.



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

General Update

This update is designed to generally inform public opinion as to the reasons pertaining to the lack of recent publication occurring at this website:

The Feature Wall

Suffice to say that work has become disproportionately busy for a number of different reasons and this has caused some distraction from the task of actually recording events, as events have been at such a pace as to prohibit their subsequent recording.

This is somewhat vexing.

Will the members of the general public please be assured that of this moment everything, if somewhat busy, is in effect fine and normal publications on this site will hopefully recommence sometime around the Friday to Monday mark, failing that, then the following Friday dependant upon seminar preparation timetable.

We thank you for your continued patronage and encourage you to visit back regularly and even to comment on the material you discover herein for your enjoyment of perusal. Thank you very much for your time and a pleasant good day to you all.

Yours with affection.

The Proprietor

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Medical Check

recently had my once a year medical check for my medical insurance. They insisted I take it because of the ammount of money they spent on having my teeth removed last year. I think they were waiting for me to say "oh thankyou very much for all that money" but the insurance is a stated clause in my contract so they can stick their feet in the snow for any continuing apology or thanks four months down the track. was moderatley dehumanising queing up in line to be weighed and measured and have blood taken and pee in a cup. They wanted me to do something that involved my poo and a stick but i flat out refused. What makes it annoying is that the medical people get excited and giggle because they are dealing with a foreigner, which makes you feel even more like cattle. So after the electro cardiogram, the vision test, the hearing test, the consultation with a doctor they put me, somewhat annoyed, into this eye testing machine. I was told to watch the red light, which I did. Then they went and got my supervisor to translate that I should look at the red light, which I was doing anyway. Here's me thinking that they were going to scan some kind of light across my eye. Wrong. The fuckers took a photo of the back of my eyeball. Ouch. its like basically opening your eye right in front of a camera flash bulb as it goes off. I jerked my head back wearing and cursing, ready to punch anyone. Certainly a useful medical check to have done, but I was angry no-one had given me any kind of explanation about what was going to happen, otherwise I would have refused to have it done.