Thursday, September 29, 2005

A new tradition...

Well it seems we've made up a bit of a routine here... looks like most mornings (at least until it gets too cold) we're meeting at Tully's for a morning coffee outside while perusing the lovely view. People watching is great, especially near PARCO, the shopping Meca of central Utsuno.

We derive our greatest pleasure from watching the ladies stroll by, though not for the reason you think. Yes, we do appreciate when a lovely, cute woman walks by and flashes us a smile... but we enjoy much more commenting on the nastiness which seems to be infecting the Japanese youth these days. I guess the best way to call them is"Shibuya-girls" (Shibuya being a trendy shopping area in Tokyo)

For those of you who live or have visited here, you know what I mean. In an attempt to be "different" an entire sub-class of Japanese youth have turned into identical fashion drones. You can spot them instantly... I of course am focusing on the women... Some of the standard attributes are as follows:
  • Thin, anorexic thin in some cases.
  • Skin tanned to a roasted-turkey brown at a tanning salon (like the place near Praktica which proudly screams out it's name: "Blacky")
  • Tanned skin then covered with a generous layer of foundation
  • Eyes covered in a dark layer of eye shaddow
  • Eyebrows plucked bald and pencilled in.
  • Healthy black hair has been chemically destroyed and is now a faded blondish colour.
  • Usually in a jean mini-skirt, though anything "jean" seems acceptable.
  • Sometimes accompanied by metrosexual, effeminite Japanese "male" with admitedly nice shoes and clothes...
Now personally, I would be ashamed to be seen walking with one of those "ladies." I will try and get some pictures, to better explain the issue... but in the meantime... allow me to direct you to this article.

Also, I have decided to become "artsy." Having left my firearms and manly camping gear behind back home, I have decided to re-arm myself here in Japan. My weapons of choice were purchased this morning at the 100Y shop, a sketch pad, 3 pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpenner. Yes, I will become a street sketcher. We'll see what my skills are like, I haven't picked up a pencil for any kind of artistic purpose since High School... but I think it should be an interesting experience. I have been inspired by Scott-o and his amazing sketches of life and scenes in Japan...

This weekend, I am heading to Nikko!!! Finally! I am heading out there with 3 students... Tomomi, Yoshiko and Shige will be my travelling partners for the day, should be a blast to finally visit what some consider to be the most important cultural site in Japan.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Living the good life in Utsunomiya

I am constantly reminded recently about just how simple and good life is here. This morning, I rolled out of bed at a leisurely 10AM, showered and headed out to Tully's to meet up with Scotto for a coffee... we sat outside in the lovely sunshine for an hour or so watching life go by near Parco, a busy shopping center located accross the street. I even took a few candid pictures of some of the folks walking by. In the last few weeks, we've done this Tully's thing quite a bit and it's a great way to chill out between classes or in the morning before work. Sometimes people look at us a little strange for sitting outside in this "cold" weather but we find it quite enjoyable. I will soon be whipping out the old leather jacket for any nightly activities... getting down to around 12 degrees at night now... I LOVE IT!

Little segway here on the Japanese obsession with set dates and deadlines for seasonal transitions, regardless of environnmental conditions. It seems that everything here is very scripted and not really flexible. Logic does not seem to enter into the collective conscience. Weather related activities are a perfect example. This week was the "official arrival" of Fall. Like clockwork, the students are now required to wear their "Winter" uniforms, with heavy wool sweaters\jackets\cardigans and stuff... if they wear their "Summer" uniform, they are sent back home. At the same time, the buses have turned their heaters on, as Alex can attest to after sweating it out with a group of rush hour commuters the other day... Now, the weather in the evenings has in fact begun to be a little nippy... but the days are still getting up to the mid-20s or higher... it's certainly odd that a date in some manual dictates when people have to start acting like it's Winter out here. Thankfully, they haven't turned on the heat at work... yet... lol Apparently they go through the same cycle in the summer... with having to wear heavy uniforms and suffer without Air Conditioning until a specific date... difficult to understand...

So yes, today was a lovely day out here, nice and clear after the high winds of the last few days brought on by the most recent Typhoon. Took a run out to Yamaya with Scott and indulged a little bit, bought some wine and stuff... then we met up with Alex for a quick Indian curry lunch.

Here are some shots from today... but first, another cooking with Michel in Japan moment... lol Made this lovely pasta and sauce the other night... mmm The leftovers are what I'm having for dinner tonight... the only thing I would change is to get some ground beef to throw in there...



Lovely day in the big city.


That same taxi was there the entire time we were having coffee... they certainly have patience!


Good old Parco, 10 floor mega shopping center... complete with it's own outdoor shrine... will try to get some kind of shot with the old Shrine and the Parco sign lit up at some point.


Good old Tully's


Another popular Japanese hobby is to complain about the lack of sun, and then when the sun DOES come out... to whip out an umbrella and hide from it! lol Kidding of course, I understand that some women prefer to keep their complexion "just so."


Yamani Cleaning... and something is apparently "OK"!


So that's about that, probably no plans tonight... dinner with a friend tomorrow night though... and Kanako and the Praktica people have booked me for dinner on November 3rd at a really good French place somewhere around here... guess they like to scope out the competition!

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Stuff

Not much that I feel like writing about right now... so here's something I found on someone's site...

1) Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
"30,000,000 (Japanese characters) san zen man" That's what you get for sitting close to a Japanese-English Dictionary.

2) Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What did you touch first?
The curtains... which I then opened to see what the noise was all about... seems there are some remnant effects from the Typhoon running through town... trees are swaying... stuff is flying around... nasty wind out there.

3) What is the last thing you watched on TV?
TV? I don't watch Japanese TV.... but I did turn it on one morning last week to see one of my students doing the weather on Tochigi TV.

4) WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what time it is:
11:20

5) Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
11:22

6) With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Music, raging winds, sirens, loudspeakers.

7) When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
About 10 hours ago... walking home from the Lion's Head.

8) Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
Canoe.ca news

9) What are you wearing?
Jeans and a button up shirt

10) Did you dream last night?
Yes, something about fishing? I don't know...

11) When did you last laugh?
Last night at the Lion's Head

12) What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Hmmmm... Canadian flag, calendar, my work schedule, a dragon on rice paper, some crafts made by one of our staff's mother, an AC unit.

13) Seen anything weird lately?
Yes, spotted a semi-harajuku girl yesterday wearing a French maid outfit, a blonde wig, red and black stockings and high platform black polishes shoes.... not bad for small town Utsunomiya

14) What do you think of this quiz?
Interesting... different.

15) What is the last film you saw?
2001: A Space Oddyssey, not bad... very ahead of it's time... but it dragged on a bit in parts.

16) If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
A house, car, boat, ATV, Cabin in the woods.... all at the same time... lol

17) If you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?
Open Japan up to the world some... would make life here much easier.

18) Do you like to dance?
Depends on the drink factor and the company... but yes I think I do.

19) Would you ever consider living abroad?
No... lol

20) What's one thing about you that people don't know:
My middle name is Louis-Joseph???

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Food of the Gods... well the Korean gods anyway...

People keep asking about my cooking here... so I thought I'd throw in one of the simpler things I've started making... Here is the Recipe for "Kim-Chee Pizza-toast a-la Scott-o"

Ingredients:
Bread
Kim Chee
Cheese
Pepper



Instructions: Throw some Kim Chee on a piece of bread, add some pepper to flavour, slap on a slice of cheese... insert into toaster oven until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Results? An easy breakfast... so long as your breath won't matter for a few hours... lol (I think it's time to clean out the toaster oven... lol)


For the uninitiated, Kim Chee was named a national treasure of Korea... it's essentially a mixture of cabbage, peppers and spices, all fermented... comes from Korea of course but is very popular here for it's health quotient. Some of the varieties can be pretty spicy... it certainly clears up the sinuses when you've got a cold, or can be used as a preventive measure.

Now, this recipe is not my most elaborate of course... but is a quick way to throw some breakfast together... Last night I made some lovely seafood pasta with a tomato-cream sauce... mmm mmm good!

As predicted, the weekend has filled itself up. Tomorrow night is dinner with the girl I met at Tully's coffee yesterday morning... I'll take her out to Praktica of course. Then Sunday I've got lunch scheduled with a student... and may be having someone from out of town coming in on Sunday as well... or I may be heading out... who knows, it's still in the planning stages. Today was spent touring with Alex and Scott... checked out a couple of shops... asked if Tobu could replace my lenses on my sunglasses... looks like I may be better to ship them home and have my parents handle it through the Sunglass Hut... shipping is cheaper than the difference in prices for polarized lenses between Canada and Japan.

One more public announcement: Props go out to Scott-o, he knows why... you don't need to.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Funky video...

Alright! The time has come to unveil the Cafe Praktica video... I think it turned out pretty well!
Keep in mind, the theme was "Happy" which is why we're all bopping around to some Led Zepplin tunes... it was alot of fun to shoot... and kind of funny to see us all on there... lol I love the shots of the chef and his wife behind the counter... that's totally genuine... they are the happiest restauranteurs I've ever met! It's a great little place, and I think it may be the first place that I've been so attached to. Back home, I'd go to so many different restaurants, you never had any feeling of belonging.

So part one of the week is over, with tomorrow being a National Holiday... we of course open back up on Saturday so it's not exactly a long weekend but it kind of is. This week was good, though pretty busy... and a little confusing on some fronts... but I'll give her a week or so to figure things out before posting the rant I have building inside me right now... lol

Met a nice cute girl this morning at Tully's, noticed she had an English book and so I struck up a conversation. She teaches English to kids, and seems quite nice... definately someone I'll be in touch with... actually I think I'll email her now! My next social commitment is on Tuesday, though I'm sure something will develop to fill in the weekend... it always does, though it's been a nice relaxing week. Don't think I've gone out or had a beer since Sunday night!!!

By the way, to those wondering... I do know who from the head office has been reading my musings on here... and there's nothing to worry about, he's cool.

Anywho, time for some cooking... I think I'll throw together some kind of seafood pasta for dinner tonight...

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Utsunomiya ah, Utsunomiya

You know what? This place is great. Last night, after stopping in for "one" beer with Scott and Alex at the Mexican place... which turned into four I think, we decided to take a look at Yatai Mura, which I had never been to. Yatai Mura is an outdoors bar\pub\restaurant area with all these little stalls that can hold maybe 6-8 customers each and there's this huge variety of stuff from Oconomiyaki to Korean to Taiwanese food. We picked a stool and pulled up to one of the counters at the Taiwanese place and had a lovely meal of Yaki-Soba (noodles), Ika (Squid) with an amazing ginger sauce, some grilled asparagus and some beef jerkey. I'm really disapointed I didn't bring my camera... I think I'll start carrying it around with me like ALL the time... Us three musketeers are certainly having a good time out here. I recall this one segment of conversation, during which we were of course discussing a certain member of the female sex and one of us asked what level of English they were, to which the answer was Take Off, Take off is one of our textbooks at school... this launched us into a conversation of just how much we'd become English teachers out here... From now on, we'll be discussing women as follows: "You should really meet Ayako, she's cute, nice body, good hair, her grammar is about STP level and her confidence would put her in Encounter but she needs to work on her quick response and sentence structure a little bit before I'd give her the nod to go up into Checkpoint." How sad is that!!!

Alex still can't get over how good life is here... no long commute to work, no need to go any kind of distance to meet people or go out, and no lack of people to keep things interesting. We are having a blast out here in the Kanto "countryside." I met up with the German financial guy again at the Lion's head on Friday night and we talked a little more... he'd given me his card last weekend when we first met, I may just email him. Always good to have some French sources in town right? And maybe his girlfriend has some cute single friends too!

As for the saga of last Wednesday night, it seems things may not have been quite as sinister as I had imagined as far as Emi goes. She is in fact the owner of a couple of flower shops, including Ark Frola downstairs from work... I had a student ask the flower shop lady yesterday. So I guess that little hole in the wall she took us to is just her hangout, and the problem rests with the bartender who must have had a bee up his ass over something. The more I think of it, the happier I am I was still in total control of my faculties at the time and was able to diffuse the situation. I'm sure I and Scott wouldn't have had much of a problem handling the barman and his goon... but a weapon can get pulled pretty quickly in those situations and that would just plain suck! So I don't think I'll head back down the alleys behind the Washington Hotel any time soon... unless accompanied by a trustworthy Japanese individual...

Just came back from Praktica where I had a lovely lunch (Green Thai Curry, AMAZING!) with three young Japanese ladies. The initial plan was Miho (former student) and her friend, but they brought along a third so I had my very own little harem when I walked in to CP, and of course got quite the smirk from the owners... They must think I'm some kind of player or something, apart from the two times I've been there with Kanako... I've now been there 4 times. The first three times with three different girls, and now this time with 3 other girls. Quite amusing.... Tonight is dinner at Modern with Akiko and then maybe a movie. Another relaxing weekend in the big city!

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

LMAO!!!

My dear god, leave it up to Mr. Lewis to take an odd situation and turn it into an amusing comic strip... I think his idea is pretty good! Maybe we could turn it into an anime strip or a weekly manga or something? He took our experience the other night at the seedy bar and turned it into this:

Quote:
"I’ve decided to turn this into a comic book, staring The Grey Goose. The Grey Goose is a common, everyday fellow without mutant superpowers, etc. but is in fact a Canadian Ninja. His mission is to seek out and destroy unpleasant drinking establishments, freeing oppressed patrons to imbibe with liberty and freedom. His arsenal consists of the Tundra grip, which reduces the enemy’s biceps to shriveled little raisins, The Smirnof IceStorm which is a hydro-projection weapon that ruins upholstery, causes slippery floors, smells poorly, especially when left sitting, causes terrible humiliation to any enemy struck by it, and has a huge (forgive the pun) demoralizing factor on the enemy when the delivery system is shown to him. The only known counter for the Smirnoff Ice Storm is a urinal puck. When things get serious, he uses the Hockey Stick of Vengance, or the Lacross Stick ofRetribution. He is clad in CCM body armor, and for further protection, has The Canadian Shield. So, what do you think, eh?"

That's just fantastic! Few notes here... Grey Goose is a Vodka, Smirnoff Ice is a Vodka cooler drink thing, and CCM makes most of the hockey equipment back home, and the Canadian Shield is the name given to most of Canada, which is essentially covered in a shield of rock. How cool is that!!! ***Anyone thinking of stealing this idea should be reminded of the CC license to the right of this site, and that everything here is copyrighted to myself*** lol

So the video yesterday went well... they had prepared a wonderful Basque (region in Spain) chicken for us served with a warm piece of bread.... mmmmmm. Didn't have any problems smiling for their video! I'm intrigued to see how it'll turn out, should take about a week to edit everything. I've added a link to their web site on the right.... EVERYBODY in Utsunomiya should go check this place out... especially if you're one of our students and are actually very close when you come to class.... head there after class for lunch or dinner, they're open 11:30 to 10:30 every day but Thursday and the fourth Wednesday of the month. Mention you read about it from me and they'll be quite pleased!

Anywho, off to make breaky and to take on the day, we're receiving another model lesson from our favourite ET today during the meeting, this time for one of the books we sometimes have problems figuring what to do with. This ET gig certainly seems to be interesting, couple of months here, couple of weeks there... hmmmm.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An... odd... night

So last night, Wednesday, our usualy posse headed out to the Lion's Head for the requisite beer or two while shooting the proverbial shit. As usually happens, those who must catch buses or trains home left Scott and I to finish our drinks alone, and we continued discussing various subjects, most of them centered on women.

During an intermission in the conversation, I turned to my right and introduced myself to the woman who'd been there quietly drinking her wine. The bartender came over and introduced her as the owner of the flower shop on the first floor of our building, and we got a conversation going. When Scott came back, I introduced them and we had a few drinks to the three of us. At one point she began to get rather friendly, and suggested we head out to another place for a drink, to which we eventually said ok, since it was only 11 or so.

As we walked towards this second place, Scott and my spider sense went up when we were led behind the Washington Hotel into an area filled with ladies of the night. This is one time that I was quite pleased that Japanese ATM's close, as I had about 6$ on me, and Scott was also running low. We repeatedly told Emi this and she said it was ok, she was buying.

So we finally get to this building and once again, the spider sense tingled a bit when we saw the door and enetered what looked to be a very private club. The door had no windows, but was very ornate and had a bronze plaque on it with "As time goes by" written on it. One small bar, two tables against the wall, and a huge variety of liquor behind the bar. Scott and I stood at the bar discussing for a few minutes, while she went to the bar and ordered the drinks. So we decided that since we had no money on us, what's the worse that could happen and joined Emi at the bar. We each got a small Guiness and she ordered a cocktail for herself, and I'm assuming paid for everything. So we kept talking, and getting friendlier and stuff and Scott ended up taking out his sketch pad and working on his sketches.

Nice evening right? Well out of the blue, the bartender comes up to us and says "Be quiet", which Scott immediately took as being extremely rude, and I took as being a lack of language to add the word "please" before the request. First of all, we weren't being any louder than anybody else. So we were thrown by the request. Scott attempted to suggest to the barman that he be more polite, which seemed to just enrage him... and now our Spider senses were really up... Scott said we were leaving, and the barman told us to get out. I asked our lady friend if she was joining and she said she'd finish her drink first and we started walking out. At this point the barman flew around the bar, and proceeded to grab Scott, who was ahead of me and force him out of the bar. This was a total inappropriate use of force since we were already on our way out and I quickly voiced my discontent at the situation. As we got outside, he kept shoving and grabbing Scott by the arms until I interceded and forcefully removed him from Scott's person... seeing as I was about 4 times his size, he didn't put up much more of a fight. We noticed that one of the bar's patrons had exited the bar with the obvious intention on calming down the situation, which was totally aggravated by the barman.

It's totally interesting how quickly a stupid little situation can escalate into something more. Scott wasn't going to fight him, there was no reason to fight him, and I guess the moron lost his nerve when I crushed his biceps in my hands when I pulled him off Scott. Scott is pretty sure there was extra security outside the club, he saw a guy move towards us but stay aside when he saw we had defused the situation. So the question remains... what the fuck just happened here? Other than we got a woman to buy us each a beer? I'm still confused about it and would like to look into the matter further. I got their card, they open at 6PM, maybe I can head there with a Japanese speaker and try to ascertain what the hell happened?

Then Emi is the next conundrum... what was her story? Was she a recruiter for this bar who got drunk and brought in two broke gaijin... which then pissed off the barman? I don't know! I don't think she was a lady of night and I don't think the barman at the Lion's Head would have introduced us were she a working girl... he takes good care of us out there, especially now that he knows Scott and he share the same love of sketching. It's certainly nice to have a place to call one's own... sort of like Cheers but in the middle of Japan where the staff only speaks a little English... lol

In fact, after this experience, and making sure we were not being followed... we headed back to the head for one last beer, but they were already emptying out the kegs for the night. Instead, the best barman in Japan poured us each a free shot of Suntory and apologized for the beerlessness of his bar.

So all in all a good night, an interesting social experiment, my first time being thrown out of a bar, and 4 free drinks... not too bad eh? I am actually quite impressed by Scotto and myself for being able to defuse the situation as well as we did... Scott had every reason to clock the guy when we got outside and he continued being pushy, but as we all know, violence is never the answer. I'm still pondering a return to "As time goes by" to check out just what the heck happened...

So that's that for last night.

Also had an interesting moment yesterday where one of the trainers mentioned something about the quick video we'll be shooting for Praktica today.... He mentioned it in a totally unrelated phone conversation, did not make a point of calling because of it... but I found it interesting. Obviously someone from the head office has been checking my blog, (hello whoever you are, please do post a comment some day instead of lurking in the shadows) I hope out of genuine interest and not as some kind of form of monitoring. I hope I'm not being immodest here but I do think people enjoy reading what I put on here... so I hope it's out of interest. Just to be on the safe side following the comment by the trainer, Kanako called the manager at home and specifically asked for permission for us to do this, to which she readily agreed there was no problem. This is purely volunteer work, no money will exchange hands... I'm just helping out some people I consider to be semi-friends with some promo for their restaurant... we won't be wearing our company pins in the video... lol And hey, any time I can get a free lunch and, as I mentioned before, get in the good books of the best French restaurant in town... count me in!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dreams coming true...

Finally, after years of toiling in the darkness, my dream is about to come true. For years I have been hiding this desire, this need, this (fill in synonym for need here). On Thursday, I will finally get the chance to shine, to show the world what I am capable of. My dream of acting in a video commercial for the web site of a small French restaurant in Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan is about to be fulfilled! I know, it's a very specific dream...

I am kidding of course, it's never been a dream of mine though I must admit it will be pretty cool. The little French place I love so much has asked me, Scott, Alex and maybe Kanako? to star in a little video they are producing for their web site. The theme is something like "Happy People" and it should be fun just to be there and smile for the cameras while enjoying a fabulous lunch. I believe the guy who runs the place used to be an advertising exec in Tokyo and decided he would rather run a quiet French restaurant with his wife instead. With this in mind, this has the possibility of actually being a rather professional job. Either way, anything that can put me in the good books of such a fine set of chefs is definitely worth the time and effort, their Vietnamese Curry is to die for. (Why curry if it's a French restaurant? Need I remind you that Vietnam was a French colony until a certain series of events a couple decades ago? Vietnamese food has had an impact on French cuisine and vice-versa) So that's that with that set of news. (How many times can you use "that" in a sentence and it still be grammatically correct?

Oh yeah! And today marks the 4 month point since I came to Japan! Amazing that it's happened so fast. Am working on another video photo compilation thing... and I just noticed the counter has rolled over 4000 visitors since I first opened this blog on December 30th, 2004. You can check out a stats graph here. Pretty impressive, a constant increase since my arrival in Japan, with around 1000 hits a month now... with already 450 this month alone.

Next on the list is a complaint by some that I am not posting enough on this here old blog of mine. To those people, my apologies. But let me qualify my apology with a few side notes. First of all, I do not want this blog to become filled with the inane ramblings of a Eigo-sensei in Japan and type everything that comes to my mind. Second, I have a certain responsibility to keep the content here relatively clean due to my responsibility to my employer and the fact that many students and my family members frequently check this out. There are some things I am never going to post about.

On a significantly more serious note, I'd like everyone's thoughts to be with two families who have lost children these past few weeks.

The first is the family of Andy Lathrop, an american who was teaching here in Japan for a year and disapeared while on a trip to Hakodate in Hokkaido shortly before returning home. He's now been missing for one month, and it looks like he may have drowned while swimming or may have met with some sort of foul play. Japan being one of the safest countries in the World, it seems odd that something criminal may have happened but nothing should be discounted.

Secondly, and this one is a whole lot closer to home for me, is the disapearance of an 18 year old girl from Barhaven, a suburb of my hometown of Ottawa. After meeting some friends on her way home from a late shift at a Wendy's near her home, Jennifer Teague vanished off the face of the earth. My thoughts and what counts for prayers for a heathen like myself are with Jennifer and her family and I hope she will be found safe and sound. Unfortunately, as time drags on with no news, that seems less and less likely. There has been no activity on her cell phone or bank accounts since she went missing 6 days ago, and now a resident has come forward reporting sounds of what she thought was a domestic dispute in the area on the night of the disapearance. The saddest thing about this is that Ottawa is losing a little bit of it's innocence every year it seems. Last summer gave us the horrendous kidnapping, rape and murder of a young lady, Ardeth Wood on a major bikepath in broad daylight. No one was arrested in that case. Now the sinister possibilites of what may have happened to Jennifer have the city on edge again, with people holding their children that much closer. Sad.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Chill time

It's been a rather busy couple of weeks out here in little ol' Utsuno. The social scene has revved into action and we've been busy touring around meeting all kinds of people. It was nice to spend a day just hanging out and recouping, getting ready for next week. Amazing what happens when you get yourself established out here.

Last night was a little informal get together with students who wanted to say hello to Alfred, a former teacher at the school who is now working as an Emergency Teacher. Ended up at the Lion's Head and after a few beers a wave of people came in, and all of a sudden we were surrounded by students... it was a good night of course and I was once again struck by how lucky I am to be out here experiencing this. At one point I was talking to 2 students, in 4 languages... how cool is that? We were talking in English obviously, but Ayako has spent time in France so I was speaking to her in French and then the other student mentionned he spent 6 years in Germany so I whipped out a couple of lines of German for him and we also went in and out of simple Japanese, mostly with me asking questions about stuff.

The Lion's Head is a great meeting place. Got talking to a guy from Germany who's been here 9 months and is working as a financial controller... he also spoke a little French so we got into that a little bit.... though it was difficult in a crowded noisy bar. Oh yeah, and I finished the bottle of Grey Goose Vodka (which I discussed here on July 30th) I started there at Noriyuki's bday party... quite sad to see the last drops pour out, I hope the barman orders another one.

Today, headed out to Yamaya with Scotto and topped off my juice rations for the week, and now I'm waiting for a lovely young lady to come over and we're heading out to Hachiman-yama to light off some fireworks.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another week nearing its end, another trip waiting in the wings

Thursday, my new favourite day of the work week. With the new schedule which was put into effect, which I love even though I'm teaching more and need to prep more lessons, my Thursday is pretty mellow. I start work at 1PM and then prep lessons or whatever for 2 hours. After that, I have a 3 hour break, today I'll get my hair cut, do my grocery shopping and clean up the place a bit for some compnay coming over tomorrow night. Then I have to be back for my first of three classes at 6PM. Not too bad eh? Of course, I think Thursday will probably be the only day I get to go home now, since I do have more work to do, the old schedule gave me two 2 hour breaks during the week and I'd usually head home for some lunch or something. But it's nice to get a 3 hour chunk of time off so I'll gladly trade those in for this one.

Oh yeah and I got my flat fixed on my bike! Thanks to my wonderful Japanese language abilities (and the fact that I was at a bike shop gesturing at an obvisouly flat bike tire) it was fixed while I headed to lunch for 1000 Yen. Now, I can ride this bike out to the Recycle Shop and see about getting myself a real bike with real tires, for cheap.

So our Emergency Teacher is a great guy, fitting in nicely with the boys at the school and the students all like him. He's been in Japan for 2.5 years, an ET for a year... he's got some pretty good war stories. There were rumours of a new teacher for us lined up earlier this week and we got so far as getting a card ready to send before it fell through... doh!

This weekend, Scott and I are planning a trip to the Tohoku region just West of Sendai. We'll be hitting Yamagata to check out Yamadera Temple, apparently one of the most beautiful temples in Japan. Depending on the weather, we may stay an extra day and check out some other stuff.... but speaking of weather, the forecast calls for T-Storms on Sunday so I'm wondering if I should reconsider the trip. That there Shinkansen is pretty pricey (7600 Yen one way) to get into the mountains and not be able to see anything because of fog and rain... but we'll see when Friday and Saturday roll around what's going on with the weather.

On another note, I was interested in THIS blurb about an organization performing door to door searches in Katrina ravaged areas to collect and "rescue" stray animals and abandoned pets in the wake of the evacuation. Now, while I can understand that most puppies and even some pot-bellied pigs may be cuter than many of us human folk (myself and Neve Campbell excluded of course), I can't believe there are ressources being expended on shit like this. There are hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the area, bodies floating in the water all over the place, and here they are picking up animals. Where was that boat and "trained rescuer" a few days ago when there were still people trapped all over the place, or why aren't they helping to recover bodies or something usefull... not that I don't love pets. My little Pinotte back home is near and dear to me and it would be quite traumatic to have to leave him behind in a ravaged city to fend for himself... BUT I feel this kind of animal activism is likely closely related to those who are willing to sacrifice human lives to further animal rights causes, frequently using firebombings, threats of violence and other means against those they accuse of violating "animal rights." In another thread on some of our society's misplaced values, there are reports of prisoners left behind to drown in their cells or of violent riots in prisons where many died during\after the storms and resulting storm, while nearby a zoo was evacuated and lost only 3 animals to the floods... Anywho, enough of a rant, I need to get ready for my "busy" day at work.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

More goodbyes... sheesh!

Yesterday was Master Noriyuki-sensei's last day with us before he heads out to Kawagoe school in Saitama to thrill them with his teaching prowess. He's a good kid, as I'm sure I've said before... has helped me uncountable times with my Japanese, and even made the most amazing reservations for me on Thursday night! Akiko and I were seated in a private traditional Japanese room in the restaurant on the top floor of the Washington Hotel, with a window overlooking the city... absolutely amazing. Here be some pics of yet another goodbye to a good friend, with Kanako as photographer.

Scott-o offering another fabulous rendition of an original goodbye poem...


The crazy bunch of us, minus some part time teachers and Alex, the Emergency Trainer who's with us for a while... and whoever is taking the picture...


Crazy bunch again, with Yoshi joining.


The boys of AEON Utsunomiya, expect a calendar to come out for 2006.


Out for a biru at Izzy's as a final farewell.


I'm sure Scott and I will hook up with Nori some time in the near future, check out something or other in Tokyo, as usual this is not a goodbye, just a see ya later.... too bad nonetheless.



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Friday, September 02, 2005

Anarchy in the Big Easy

As we watch the events unfolding in New Orleans this week from the other side of the planet, certain questions just must be asked:

1. Why did 100,000 people stay behind after the mandatory evacuation order from the mayor? While I can understand that New Orleans has a substantial poor population who may not have had methods of escaping the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, what's up with the rest of the people? A Category 5 hurricane, the greatest natural force (short of a quake) unleashed by nature is barelling towards you, you live in a city which is essentially a bowl, surrounded by Ocean and a major lake... yeah sure, just board up the windows and keep watching Oprah, nothing bad'll happen.

2. Why was New Orleans not prepared to deal with this since this exact scenario was predicted some time ago by FEMA. Doesn't take too too bright a person to figure out that a) New Orleans is substantially lower and Sea Level... b) Lake Ponchartrain is even higher than sea level... c) both the lake and the OCEAN are held back by an ancient network of levies... d) duh, something might happen. I mean come on! Even the Tragically Hip predicted this would happen in their song New Orleans is sinking... and that was in the 80s!

3. Why is it taking days and days to get military personnel in to the city? There must be at least 50 bases within a few hours drive of New Orleans. Conversly, why is it taking days and days to get the people out from the Super Dome... cops and rescuers are getting shot at? SHOOT BACK... that's what them fancy iron things hanging off your belt are for.

4. Why has it taken so long to declare martial law and that any looters or armed persons would be shot dead like the dogs they are? Reports of bands of armed men making their way through the refugee camps raping women seem to finally have gotten a rise out of the Governor.

5. Why did Paul Martin, our (Canada's) PM wait days before offering assistance? On that note, why the hell would anyone re-elect this dolt... which they probably will...

Just a few thoughts which crossed my mind as I watched the CNN reports of the horrendous situation down there. Americans must be ashamed, how sad...

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